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Top Recruitment Sectors for Growth in 2014


It’s amazing how quickly the UK employment market has changed. In March 2013 when I wrote Top 5 Recruitment Sectors to be in for next 5-10 years unemployment was still rising across most of Europe and the UK economy flat-lining.

Nothing has changed for me to alter my opinion that the Top 5 Recruitment Sectors for the next 5-10 years are:

1. Information Technology
2. Engineering
3. Energy, Oil and Gas
4. Healthcare
5. Emerging Technology application

Now just nine months later the UK economy and the jobs market have shifted 180 degrees. This popular blog (over 8,000 views) has prompted many to email me and ask me so what, in my opinion, are the sectors to be in for 2014. So here are my predictions for the Top Recruitment Sectors for growth for 2014

Number 5 – Retail (On-line & Offline)

With the UK consumer starting to spend more money as their confidence rises, so retailers are starting to benefit from this increased spending. The retail model is changing and many with old and out-dated models are suffering. ‘Click & Collect’ seems to have grabbed the imagination and ‘online’ is definitely proving popular. Certainly at the Knowlson household where I estimate we purchased over 65% of our Christmas items on-line. Teenage kids love the ‘ASOS model’. This is not a universally successful sector and we will see some casualties still but I sense it’s a good sector to be recruiting for.

I expect some big winners and losers in 2014. Quality still seems to win out. John Lewis & Waitrose who certainly don’t sell cheap products are seeing their sales rise. At the other extreme Aldi is proving hugely popular too.  At this Christmas’s Cocktail Parties numerous housewives told me to shop there as you get great value for money. Fortunately I already do.

Number 4 – Graduate Recruitment

Okay now that will surprise many but I predict this year we will start to see a huge rise in demand for Graduates.

Why? The signs are there that the well headlined ‘War-on-Talent’ that I have been going on about for the last 18 months has started.

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Anecdotally several of my recruitment agency clients have noticed a huge decline in applicant response numbers to job board adverts, a 65-80% decline. Their quality responses are down from 6-7 good applicants in the spring/summer 2013, to virtually zero by the end of November.

Does this signal the death of the UK Job Board Boom?

I hear from the direct sourcing teams that most household names can still attract good quality applicants but the rest are ‘whistling-in-the-wind’. The smart employers have already ready realised that if you have ambitious growth plans for the next 2-3 years then the time has come to ‘grow-your-own’. The Government’s new apprenticeship schemes have proved massively popular and I hear from my HR Director Network that the FTSE250 Graduate Recruitment projections are 35-50% up and in some cases 100-150%. The Graduate Schemes are back with a vengeance, if in some cases they have ever been away.

I hear many MSP/RPO suppliers are being retained in increasing numbers to recruit graduates for 2013-2014. So recruiters be aware your smart clients will be looking at this.

For ‘Grads’ themselves if you have a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) the opportunities will be abundant. For others such as social sciences, the arts, history, etc you might want to consider conversion courses or an MSc, as STEM skills are where the future lies and from what I have seen, as a member of the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, all the Global & UK projections are that the skills shortages in STEM areas are here to stay for the next 10-15 years.

Graduates and A-Level students take note.

Number 3 – Project/Programme Management

When recessions hit many organisations cut back on non-essential project work. That has traditionally been the norm.  When the economy turns the reverse typically happens and I know of few companies that do not have some growth plans for 2014 and in most cases they are all planning significant changes and expansion.

It is true to say that unlike previous down-turns, this recession has seen many organisation retain key skills they knew they would need for an up-turn and UK Productivity levels have been hit over the past 3-5 years as a consequence.

This has been well headlined by the UK Office for National Statistics but what I have observed is that many organisations laid-off a lot of their project and programme management skills or moved them into operational management roles.  I am told few have many people free with this in-house capability without transferring or re-deploying them from mainstream operational duties.

Now as the UK economy picks up there will be surge in demand for these skills. It has happened in every recession we have come out of in my working lifetime 1980’s, 90’s 00’s and I see nothing to dissuade me this time will be any different. Once again anecdotally I hear from direct sourcing teams and recruitment agencies a like that it has already started.

Interim PM and Programme Director roles are on the up as is the increase in enquires for training in this sector. Don’t be surprised if in six months time we see a rise in demand for analysts and operational/implementation people. All of this will be accompanied by demand for Project Office People too.

Experienced Recruiters know the footprint of demand will follow the Project Development Lifecycle.

A word of advice for IT Recruiters; in-house or agency, there is already an acute shortage of Dot.Net, Java and App Developers, so there will be massive issues for companies who do not plan ahead and put in place strategies to find these people now when you initiate projects rather than wait 6-9 months for the ‘build phases’ of your IT projects. I refer you back to my projected demand for Graduates, this is one of the areas many of these people will be sucked into.

I am told in Engineering the situation is no different. So once again for graduates with STEM skills the opportunities in 2014 are abundant.

Number 2 – Financial Services

Does not require too much crystal ball gazing but I have been working for the innovative big data talent attraction people, JobsTheWord. We have an impressive array of major blue-chip clients and these past four months and all our clients in the financial services sectors are projecting huge increase in demand for staff.

My ex-colleagues working in the RPO/MSP spaces are all projecting significant demand increases in this sector too. Financial Analysts, Area Sales Managers and Relationship people, Risks Specialists and Analysts as well as al the associated IT, Marketing, Accounting, HR and other Back-Office people are all in demand.

I hear a lot of people talking about the application of ‘Big-Data’. Individuals with traditional MI analysis skills are being sort-out in significant numbers. This is a whole new area, which many businesses are still coming to grips with but I see this becoming a real major area of skill shortage in 2014 not just in the UK but also globally.

Again STEM Graduates with highly numerate degrees, especially mathematics, will have the opportunities to find work in this sector with little difficulty. Before I list my Number One there are a few sectors that did not make my top five that deserve a mention:

1. Admin & Clerical Recruitment
The Admin & Clerical Sector has seen the largest decline in employment over the last 3-5 years and according to the UKCES Working Futures report it is projected to decline further as a percentage of the UK workforce from 12% to 10% by 2020. I expect in 2014 this sector will see a recovery but the long-term decline is a reason I do not place it in my top five.

2. Manufacturing Recruitment
This has also seen some of a significant recovery in 2013, especially in automotive, aerospace and other hi-tech sectors. Once again the UKCES report projects a decline of 8%-7% by 2020. I do see 2014 as being a good year for this sector but not sufficient to make the top five.

3. Healthcare Recruitment
This sector overall I expect to also see a solid recovery in 2014 as global demand impacts the NHS’s ability to retain permanent staff. Also the continued demand for Care Workers will also see opportunities in this sector too but I do not anticipate the dramatic rises I expect in other sectors/

Number 1 – Construction

Hardly a surprise with Construction Jobs demand up 74% in 2013 according to (Reed Job Index Dec 2013).  The growth in this sector is hugely encouraging for us all. The UK needs a strong construction sector as it fuels the UK economy through ‘multiplier-effect’. New buildings and house moves fuel additional purchases such as fixtures, fittings, white goods, etc, all of which help to increase UK domestic demand.

With many of my ex-colleagues from Hays Plc. being employed in construction recruitment jobs and with several of my existing clients now operating in this market I am delighted to see it bounce back so strongly. With the government funding boosting housing building and infrastructure projects set to continue and grow in 2014 and beyond I see this as a great sector to be working in for the next few years.

Many of my agency clients operating here are already noticing acute shortages for basic trades people from scaffolders to plasterers, electricians to site managers. Whether in 2014 it continues to be the fastest growing sector overall could be argued but I believe the level to which it fell in the recession means there is a considerable way for it to go in 2014 to make up much of its lost ground.


Ian has had an impressive career to date spanning nearly 30 years in recruitment, talent acquisition, sales and training sectors.

Having worked as Sales Director for Hays Specialist Recruitment for 11 years, Ian understands the complexities of corporate resourcing and constructing high return client relationships. He has led the sale of Managed Services contracts with values of up to £20M per annum and delivered numerous long term high value partnerships.

As a strategic partner to many blue chip organisations, Ian has worked at board level to assist strategic decision-making in skills availability within regions, sectors and countries. The organisations Ian has helped with his innovative, solutions focused approach include Barclays Bank, Clerical Medical, NHS Connecting for Health, DWP, MoneySupermarket, AXA Direct and Leicestershire County Council.

As well as being a founder partner of Recruitment Training Group, Ian also runs the complimentary Selling Success business, offering consulting, coaching, training and education in business development and relationship selling. Ian’s enthusiasm for coaching doesn’t end there, as a qualified FA coach he enjoys motivating people to be the best in their sporting endeavours, as well as in business.

Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and management psychology, Ian is able to teach sales relationship skills that it takes others years to learn. Ian is a highly proficient user of social media as a sales tool, having generated over 50% of his business income via social media. And gives others the framework to use channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter to drive their own success.


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