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first_imgA region by region look at working in HR in the UK.  This month we look at the South East.  Editedby Ross WighamEconomic engine of the UK keeps ahead of packSouth-East England has traditionally been the heartbeat of UK business andemployment, with high wages – second only to London – coupled with low levelsof unemployment. It’s proximity to both London and mainland Europe has made its towns andcities a haven for corporate head offices. Described by some as the economic ‘locomotive’ of the UK, the area has a£140bn economy with an annual contribution of around £17bn to the exchequer. Unemployment is currently only 3.9 per cent which, in a diverse economy, hasled to skills shortages across the board. Mike Emmott, employment relations adviser at the Chartered Institute ofPersonnel and Development (CIPD) says the region’s strength is that it’s fullof organisations that compete internationally and that are on the cutting edge.”People tend to earn more money than elsewhere and the opportunitiesare more readily available. The latest HR thought also tends to hit theSouth-East first,” he explains. However, Emmott believes this traditional business hot spot could be thefirst place to suffer from the need for work-life balance, home-working andimproved communications. “Staff don’t necessarily have to be in the head office anymore becauseof improved technology, so many may be tempted to leave,” he says.”Colleagues of mine often suffer two-hour commutes to work and people areincreasingly moving to areas that are less hassle.” Cynthia Hemming, Southern regional chair of the Recruitment and EmploymentConfederation and head of Tunbridge Wells-based AFB recruitment, believes HRstaff can move forward more quickly by gaining work in the South East. She says that the strength and diversity of the economy, coupled with thenumber of major companies in the area provide some of the best opportunities inthe HR market. “The South East does have a very diverse mix of employers which offersmore opportunities for HR staff looking to move forward in their career. Ithink HR people across the board can often find work more easily here,”she explains. However, according to Hemming the HR jobs market in the SouthEast has been unusually static recently because of the economic downturn,although this has started to recover in the last month or so. The major challenge for HR managers once in a post is finding the staff, bothspecialist and unskilled, and then keeping them in the business. “Unemployment is almost nil in some parts of the region so this createsthe staff shortage problems for HR people looking to recruit,” she says. Living in the regionHousing: Although it may help your career and increase earnings, theSouth East is not a cheap place to live, with higher house prices than almostanywhere else in the country. According to Nationwide building society, theaverage price currently stands at £160,609. More specific average pricesinclude £103,144 for a flat, £161,890 for a semi-detached house and £233,889for a detached one.Education: Figures from the National Office of Statistics’ Regions inFigures report show a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 22.3 at primary schools and17.2 at secondary schools. Class sizes are at 26.4 and 21.8 respectivelycompared with national averages of 26.3 and 21.9. In terms of qualifications,at GCSE level, 50.3 per cent of boys and 61.0 per cent of girls gain five ormore A-C grades.Transport: The South East has some of the most acute transport problems inthe country, with huge congestion at peak times on the road and rail systems.It has the busiest road network outside of the capital, taking about 4,800vehicles every day. A lack of investment coupled with difficult employeerelations has led to a railway system that runs below capacity and, if you askcommuters, rarely on time. Culture/lifestyle:Within easy reach of many London hot spots, the South East alsohas plenty to offer itself in cities such as Brighton and Southampton. There isa long, pleasant coastline as well as areas of natural and historicalsignificance across Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. Shopaholics should also besatisfied by the gigantic Bluewater and Lakeside shopping centres, as well asmany town centre venues.Company profileMicrosoftStaff: 18,000Based: ReadingUS software giant Microsoft is based at the Thames Valley Parkin Reading and employs around 18,000 staff across the UK. Steve Harvey directorof people, profit and culture sees it as an ideal location.”One of the main advantages is the access to such a goodlabour force, which is essential in our business,” he says.”It also has a good infrastructure for travel with linksto the airport, motorway and rail network. This is really useful for aninternational company because we often have visitors from overseas.”Harvey believes business is well supported in the area with thewhole system from education to local council policy designed to help employers.”HR is also really switched on here because if you don’ttreat people in the right way they can wander off somewhere else,” he adds.Move here for the…SalariesThe rates of pay are higher than almost anywhere elseChallengesWith such a tight labour market you will get to experience HRat its sharpest and most innovativeCareersWith so many large, international organisations based in theSouth East careers can move fasterBut beware of…CommutingIt has created some of the worst ‘journey-to-work horrorstories’ in the countryStaff shortagesSkilled staff in almost every industry are in short supply withblue collar staff even harder to findCost of livingThe extra salary will not make the huge house prices easier totakeHRcontacts and local informationCIPDKent branch [email protected] branch [email protected], Ipswich and East London branch  [email protected] club www.hrdirectorsclub.comSocpoSouth East regional secretary [email protected] England Development Agency  www.seeda.co.uk Comments are closed. 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