Are new industries keeping the economy alive?

This economic downturn has been unprecedentedly long and tense for jobseekers, with many of the traditional industries suffering thousands of redundancies. The good news is that there are a growing number of job opportunities in emerging industries.


Industries damaged by the recession

Like the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, blue-collar workers have fared the worst. The Working Futures study by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed that 1.5 million jobs were lost in manufacturing alone between 2000 and 2010, with 70,000 more expected to be cut by 2015. It’s a similarly depressing story across construction, which saw 240,000 job losses in the three years to 2011.

Another badly hit workforce is the public sector which, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, saw 300,000 job losses between 2010 and 2012 with a total of 1.2 million predicted to go by 2018. Defence is also suffering with the prospect of a further 5,300 Army redundancies this June, as the Government tries to reduce personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017.

The retail industry is still contracting, and since Blockbuster, HMV, Jessops and Comet went into administration, fashion, electrical and giftware shops have been tipped as the next casualties of Britain’s online shopping habit, cash-strapped shoppers and biting rates.

PwC and Local Data Company analysis claimed that chain shop closures averaged 20 stores a day in 2012. But, while card, computer games, clothes, health foods, jewellers, travel agents, recruitment agencies, banks and sports goods shops went under,  pound shops, pawnbrokers, charity shops, cheque cashing, betting shops, supermarkets and coffee shops bucked the trend.

Nevertheless, in January, the Centre for Retail Research predicted that a further 45 chains with a total of 3,500 stores are in danger of collapse in 2013 – spelling redundancy for some 30,000 more workers.


Industries on the up

Interestingly, the demise of HMV, Game and Blockbuster on the high street has not impacted on the video games industry, which has been buoyed by online purchasing and stimulated by tax relief and consumer passion for mobiles and tablets. It employs roughly 9,000 development staff in the UK and a recent report by trade association Tiga reveals that by the end of 2012 there were 118 more studios and 336 more creative staff than there had been in 2011. Demand prompted investment of £427m in games, and while some of the larger companies have closed, small start-up companies have flourished.

Certainly, some industries have cause to be optimistic. The Office for National Statistics have released figures showing a drop in unemployment of 14,000 people to 2.5 million, fresh employment opportunities seem to be coming from the least likely directions. The recent announcement that French energy company EDF has planning permission to build the £14b nuclear power station – the first in the UK in almost 20 years – will stimulate between 20,000 to 25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs, according to the Government.

Elsewhere, Aker Solutions, a Norwegian oil services group, has pledged to add 1,300 recruits to its UK workforce of 3,200 by 2015. Encouragingly, about 30% of its employees come from other engineering sectors such as aerospace, refineries, defence and the armed forces.

It’s not news, either, that one of the fastest growing areas of employment is computer technology. The fact that IT and digital communications are the lifeblood of businesses across all industries means this trend will continue. Careers are opening up for systems analysts, designers and developers, computer programmers, web developers, consultants and information managers.

The IT sector is in fact suffering a skills shortage, recruiting people with transferable skills from hard-hit sectors, such as the car industry and banking and financial services.

Other industries unscathed by recession include the healthcare and elderly care sectors where jobs are increasing in line with the ageing population. In turn, there are more administrative and support roles available and those with transferable skills are in demand from other industries.

Further career prospects are opening up for workers in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, nanotechnology and energy technology. And again, as these industries grow, so will opportunities in the administration, IT and support roles.

Changes in the future

Looking ahead, analysts also point out that as the population increases and older workers retire, there will be increased demand for teachers, lawyers, police and so on. Equally, the increase in one-parent families and a new trend among high-earners means there are more opportunities for those offering domestic support.

Last but not least, globalisation is fuelling employment. Research last year from innovation charity Nesta showed that foreign-owned businesses raised their share of UK jobs from 11% in 1997 to 19% in 2010, equating to 1.6 million more jobs, and this trend is likely to continue.

There’s no doubt that employment in some sectors looks bleak for the next few years. On the plus side, however, some industries are evolving, which will embrace those with transferable skills, while other industries face skills shortages.

A monthly survey of 400 job agencies by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG found that recruitment of permanent and temporary staff rose again in December 2012 for a third consecutive month. Demand was highest for engineering workers and in the nursing, medical and care category, and there were skills gaps for chefs and heavy goods vehicle drivers.

“The developing story this year is likely to be one of skills shortages as people with expertise in key areas become harder and harder to source,” said Kevin Green, chief executive of the REC. “We are already seeing this in areas such as IT and engineering and recruiters are telling us that candidates are in short supply to fill jobs for drivers, chefs and carers.”

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