During the last few weeks we have seen a tremendous amount of noise generated by and about Wales Week in London, which featured some 80 activities and events across London, celebrating and promoting Wales and Welsh business. I was particularly delighted that together with the Welsh Government, colleagues of mine helped deliver an event showcasing the range of increasing employment opportunities across Wales, with many people attending who are considering a return to Wales to work for the next stage of their career and family life.
Indeed, generally throughout the programme of events, a huge number of people in London would have listened to and spoken to representatives of many businesses, sectors and industries that are growing in Wales and the opportunities they offer in terms of employment, investment, partnership or relocation.
The event Acorn put together was specifically targeted at those already wondering about employment opportunities and what the Welsh labour market will look like over the next five years or so. People attended from a variety of areas such as tech, law, sport, communications, finance, public services as well as others.
We were able to demonstrate that increasingly there are superb opportunities across Wales, at whatever skill-level, profession or sector one might be considering. Indeed, one of our speakers, a banking lawyer with Hugh James, was able to demonstrate that by moving to Wales for a change of lifestyle, he maintained his London-based connections and clients, and has grown his business from Wales, still targeting the London market.
Whilst I recognise that there is still much to do, there is no denying that the conditions for attracting new work opportunities, new employers and new start-ups across Wales are improving, and so as well as continuing to grow and support home-grown talent, we also need to ensure we continue to attract additional talent – covering the full range of skill-levels – to Wales.
We’re better connected than ever before and that will only improve further. At a time when people can set up a business from their shed in the most rural parts of mid-Wales, London may be a fantastic market for us all to tap into, but in terms of developing a career, it isn’t the be all and end all many previously believed it once was.
Areas where we have certainly seen excellent growth include the IT and digital sector, tourism, food and drink, the creative industries, life sciences, construction and infrastructure, aerospace, nuclear, energy and environmental, and financial and professional services.
To capitalise on the opportunities created by these industries, city deals in the Cardiff capital region, Swansea bay and North East Wales have far-reaching plans to drive the economy in their areas and ambitious prospects for jobs growth.
Let’s take the IT and digital sector, which has been thriving for a while, thanks in part to more than £115m of venture capital invested in Welsh tech start-ups since 2012. Wales is currently enjoying unprecedented economic expansion in tech and digital – making it an excellent time to consider starting or joining a business here.
Research carried out by Tech City UK has shown that Cardiff and Swansea are playing a leading role – both cities featured in the Top 10 in the UK for digital salary growth and Gross Value Added (GVA) growth. Of course, other areas such as Newport and North Wales are also playing a significant role.
The creative industries are among the fastest growing in Wales, employing 84,000 and with a turnover of £1bn – and very recently Cardiff was listed as the leading place outside of London for growth and sustainability of jobs in this sector.
The aerospace and defence sector in Wales involves some 160 companies employing 20,000 people with a turnover £5bn; while 11,000 people work in 365 life science companies, with a combined turnover of over £2bn – and both sectors are continuing to see superb growth.
The financial and professional services is growing Wales-wide too, thanks in part to companies like Admiral and Go Compare, which are showing others that it’s possible to set up shop outside of areas like London, attract top talent (again at varying skill-levels) and thrive. One of the UK’s other major financial establishments, Deloitte, has already made headlines this year with their proposed plans to recruit an additional 600 staff to its current workforce of 870 in Cardiff. That in itself will provide lots of exciting opportunities for people considering a move back here from elsewhere in the UK.
There are also a number of large-scale construction and infrastructure projects on the horizon that continue to make headlines, and the nuclear industry is having a big impact in Wales, not just in terms of Wylfa but also thanks to projects like Hinkley Point, which has a supply chain that reaches into Wales. The Wales Nuclear Forum has been developed to generate and coordinate opportunities for Welsh-based suppliers across the UK and to showcase the skills and work opportunities we have here.
Even if you’ve lived in Wales in the past, it may at first seem daunting to wave goodbye to where you’re currently living and working but the lure of an excellent quality of life and sustainable, exciting career prospects, will surely be worth it in the end. For those who are tempted but not sure where to start looking for work, recruiters are as good a starting point as any. They will know the economic climate, the salary offerings, the companies that are hiring - it’s in their power to give people a fair appraisal of what they can expect and introduce them to the most suitable potential employers.
On behalf many employers, we continue to work with job-seekers across the UK and internationally on a daily basis to discuss work opportunities throughout Wales, and increasingly we are having much more to offer them.
Matt Southall is Group Managing Director of Wales’ leading multi-specialist recruiter, Acorn www.acornpeople.com