Steven Bryan, director, Bryan and Armstrong, gives an idea of how the health and safety jobs market fared in 2016, including market trends and the challenges that were faced. He also provides a look forward to health and safety recruitment in 2017, including the expectations and a speculation on the future of manufacturing.
Review of 2016
Back in January 2016, I predicted increased demand for health and safety professionals throughout the year with an expectation of particularly high demand for interim staff and contractors. Our job registrations increased by 18% year-on-year.
While much of this demand has been driven by the need for specialist, high-level health and safety skills to support major construction and infrastructure projects, around 15-20% has come from interim management, providing cover whilst a permanent candidate is recruited.
I also forecast that average salaries would increase by 5-10% and whilst this has been realistic for people moving between jobs, annual salary increases and reviews remain sluggish, so it’s likely that the industry average is far lower.
Overall, 2016 has been another good year for health and safety professionals in the construction, infrastructure, facilities management, corporate and manufacturing sectors. Demand has been particularly strong across London, South East and West Midlands regions, whilst growth has remained weak across the North East, North West, South West and Wales.
Demand for health and safety professionals is closely linked with the performance of the wider economy. Broadly speaking, when organisations take on more work, they recruit more staff and therefore need more professional health and safety support.
A continued positive economic outlook is likely to stimulate the job market, generate new job opportunities and increase average earnings as demand for health and safety professionals exceeds supply. A skills gap will eventually encourage investment in training and development, creating entry-level job opportunities and attracting new entrants into the industry.
Many of our clients recruit a mixture of employed and contract staff to deliver the right mix of skills, whilst balancing stability and flexibility. This is particularly important for organisations operating in a project-driven environment with peaks and troughs in workload, a need for niche skill sets or ambitious growth plans.
The main challenge facing the industry is a shortage of investment in training and development over recent years, and therefore, a lack of new entrants to the industry. Whilst this shortage has led to salary increases in the short-term, in the medium and long-term, it’s bad news for the profession as knowledge, skills and experience is not being passed on to the next generation of health and safety professionals.
In my experience, this failure to train and develop entry-level staff is not down to a lack of will or resources, but rather a symptom of the skills shortage. If an organisation is already short-staffed, they want to recruit people who can do the job from day one and in such a competitive, candidate-led marketplace, employers are also reluctant to invest resources in staff development only to lose trained staff to a competitor.
Expectations for 2017
The government have been supportive of major infrastructure projects such as HS2, Hinkley Point, Crossrail 2 and Thames Tideway. During the planning and construction phase, spending on these projects will filter down through supply-chains, stimulating growth and generating jobs across a wide range of industry sectors.
The future of manufacturing in the UK also seems bright with the recent news of Nissan’s commitment to invest in UK production and Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement that they intend to create 10,000 jobs in electric car production.
Assuming the economic outlook remains positive, we expect demand for independent H&S Consultants to increase in 2017, although the full implications of the Chancellor’s changes to the application of IR35 in the public sector have introduced an element of uncertainty.
Demand for employed health and safety professionals will also continue to increase, particularly in the London, the South East and West Midlands regions. This will put further pressure on the industry to invest in training and improve salaries to attract, develop and retain talented health and safety professionals.