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CAREERS - THE LURE OF THE SOUTH

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Senior manager positions in the south-east offer wide diversity, but these come with high demands, says Alia Waheed...
Senior manager positions in the south-east offer wide diversity, but these come with high demands, says Alia Waheed

The south-east is one of the most diverse regions for local government and this is reflected in the wide variety of opportunities for senior managers.

However, this diversity, coupled with issues such as house prices, makes it a demanding area for councils.

National and local trends

While the job market for senior managers reflects national trends, regional factors also play a role.

Steven Crookbain, of executive recruitment and development firm Rockpools, says: 'The main growth areas are regeneration, as is the national trend. In the south-east, there is also a growth in demand for senior managers in waste management. It is not the most glamorous job but the government is putting a lot of attention on that with its environmental agenda.'

The change in the structure and delivery of services has led to opportunities in new areas.

Willie Griffin, head of human resources at Hounslow LBC, says: 'The traditional shortage areas are around planning, technical roles and social services. Everyone hears about shortages of teachers and social workers but the shortages of managers for those departments are also acute.

'There are also shortages in jobs which are new to local government, such as project management and e-government and strategic roles in procurement.'

In the capital

London is the focus of local government in the south-east. However, there is a tendency for councils in the capital to be London-centric when recruiting senior managers.

'London borough recruitment tends to focus within London,' says Mr Crookbain. 'It is less likely from outside and rarely from rural councils.

'It is difficult to move into London. There's a perception among London boroughs that people who don't have the London experience won't understand the capital's needs and unique urban agenda. Senior managers tend to rotate around the different London boroughs.'

He advises: 'If you want to get into London, give yourself opportunities by getting into the networking circles. Attend conferences and get your name out. Prove you have relevant experience of delivering something a council needs.'

Outside London

County councils that share borders with London councils face stiff competition for good senior managers from the capital. With high house prices and without the cushion of London weighting, it can be hard to tempt top staff away from the big smoke.

However, counties have plenty to offer, says Alan Warner, director of people and property at Hertfordshire CC.

'It's quite a tough market because of the impact of a number of things such as housing prices,' he says. 'People are making a lifestyle decision about their next job.

'The national market is shrinking, as people are not as keen to move because of schooling. Another issue for counties is that we are around London where at the senior end it's a tough market.

'What we do is promote ourselves as an excellent organisation. We usually use headhunters to fill jobs and tend to fill them first time round, but it's tough so we have to entice people.'

Retention

Issues such as house prices and lifestyle play a major role in attracting staff to senior management posts in the south-east. This has led to councils taking a more proactive approach towards staff retention.

Mr Griffin says: 'A growing feature in London and the south-east is that more younger people are coming into the area for early jobs, but drift away when they get older and more experienced.

'The ones with enough experience to be senior managers can choose where to work and consider lifestyle issues. This is a demographic issue of movement, driven by high housing costs, and affects a lot of organisations.

'This leads us to look at recruitment and retention in a broader way than in the past. Issues such as work/life balance and career development come into play. We are also looking into the culture of the organisation and career development opportunities.'

Upcoming issues

Changes in the structure and delivery of services are reflected in the skills councils look for from potential senior managers.

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