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The Hinkley Effect

12th October 2017

The Hinkley Effect

The current unemployment level for the UK is 4.4% – the lowest it has been since 1975.

This is 57,000 less than the previous quarter and 15,000 fewer for the same period last year (April to June 2017).

For the Sedgemoor area alone there are a total of 1890 (2.6%) unemployed so how will we cope with the thousands and thousands of people that Hinkley need to build the new nuclear energy site?

Statistics indicate that 31% of employers feel that economic statistics are worse, and 40% of employers have no capacity within their organisation to take on more staff. With labour skill and talent shortages at an all-time high, my question is again –how will this nuclear build go ahead?

Construction and health care are the two main areas where shortage of candidates are at an all-time high. Temp billings continue to grow and have reached a three year high, whilst initially the South of England has seen the fastest growth across the UK.

There is a severe decline in candidates for both permanent and temporary jobs in various sectors. Areas such as construction engineers, IT, welders, finance and factory work, amongst others, are all seeing a shortage of available people.

It is clear that employers are having to work even harder to fill the vacancies, as the jobs available rise but the candidate market shrinks. Employers are struggling not just for general roles such as warehouse and admin but also specialist roles too such as Medical, Cost Management, Infrastructure engineers and Business Analysts

So, with Hinkley on the door step of Bridgwater, where will the workers come from?

On top of the challenges of recruiting for staff, businesses in the area – if they are not already – will find themselves competing against the inflated salaries that have been negotiated for the workers.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a fair wage but roles such as a Mixer Driver are being paid £49k- £53k basic and £58-62k for a supervisor, not including overtime. These salaries are way beyond the budgets and comprehension of most businesses in the area. Also, what happens when the role is no longer needed and the workers are used to earning these salaries, how many businesses can afford to pay that much? Very few I’m sure!

Though the outlook for the many with the HPC on their doorstep might be rosy, there will be many that will struggle to survive and possibly cease trading during these challenging and uncertain times – not just locally but nationally and globally as well.

Throw Brexit into the mix and the UK labour market might be in an even more turmoil than we think.  So a word of advice, pay as well as you can, offer benefits and training, look after our staff and create a culture that people want to be part of.

When I spoke to local business in the area, I wanted to know what they thought about the Nuclear site, as you would expect, mixed replies:

One said:

“We have definitely been affected by HPC. Last month we lost 6 staff, we had to review the whole department. Certainly, wage inflation in the town is getting harder and the labour availability is very slim”

Another company said:

“Our main problems is the journey times for our staff to and from the factory”

However, HPC as I said for some is seen a great opportunity, one businessman I spoke to said:

“HPC though might be a threat, we have to see it as an opportunity, many large contractors have been engaging with the Local SME’s “

Whilst another said:

“I know someone who is now on better pay, learning new skills and has better prospects than before”

Not everyone will want to work on a nuclear site and not everyone will have the skills or qualifications to though – so let’s remain positive and make sure we plan, recruit and retain our staff as much as possible.       

By Helen Lacey, Red Berry Recruitment MD





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