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Brightwater Salary Survey shows acute sectoral skills shortages driving Northern Ireland salaries up by 28%

Skills shortages and a growth in manufacturing in Northern Ireland have combined to boost salaries in the sector by up to 28% in roles such as project engineer and environmental engineer, whilst a significant increase of between 5-16% has been experienced across engineering and manufacturing. That’s according to the latest figures from Brightwater’s Salary Survey 2019. 

Brightwater’s Salary Survey 2019 Highlights

  • Northern Ireland salaries edging upward in spite of Brexit uncertainty and an inactive Stormont
  • In demand roles for 2019 include quantity surveyors, finalist level and newly qualified accountants, project managers, payroll and tax specialist, compliance and risk professionals, personal injury claims handlers, company secretaries, and bid managers
  • Benefits and incentives such as pensions and private healthcare increasingly important in attracting talent, in addition to better work-life balance and wellness-based benefits including flexible and remote working, gym membership and duvet days

The demand for skilled workers reflects the fact that manufacturing within Northern Ireland has grown almost three times faster than the rest of the UK, with the sector now accounting for 11% of employment in Northern Ireland.

Reassuringly perhaps, given recent job cut announcements in Belfast, a shortage of key skill sets has seen forward-thinking employers being more flexible in selecting candidates with transferable skills.

As a region, mid-Ulster is offering some of the best engineering and manufacturing salaries thanks to a growth in demand and lack of skilled staff. With the ability to cherry-pick roles, few engineers are willing to travel more than 30-45 mins to work and location is fast becoming an engineer’s most important motivation when considering a new role.

More generally, the report found that overall Northern Ireland salaries saw a small but steady rise of around 2-5% across finance, HR, sales, marketing, manufacturing, engineering, supply chain and accountancy sectors, as employers continue to compete for skilled workers in a high-employment market, with some sectors and specific roles seeing significant salary increases and additional financial benefits.

In the past year, an increasing focus on data protection and privacy, due to the introduction of GDPR, has seen the emergence and growing demand for project managers, legal professionals in data privacy and protection and general data protection officer roles.

Whilst monetary benefits such as bonuses of 3–10%, pensions, healthcare and life assurance are all on the increase this year, financial packages are not the only draw for candidates as benefits continue to play a key part in the attraction and retention of staff. Companies are now more aware of their competitors’ offerings and are being forced to become more innovative. Free on-site breakfasts, workplace gyms, free fruit, subsidised canteens and yoga sessions are just some of the popular perks being used to attract the best candidates. Improved work-life balance is still an important factor for staff as flexible ways of working are increasingly top of the agenda for both employers and job-seekers in an ever changing and diverse workforce.

Commenting on the latest figures, Cathal O Donnell, Regional Director at Brightwater (pictured) , said: “The recruitment sector has always been a strong barometer of social and economic trends and this year’s salary survey continues to reflect wider issues and predict future developments.

“Understandably, Brexit remains high on the agenda for firms as they look ahead to the economic landscape. Whilst uncertainty surrounding a deal and the ongoing impasse at Stormont may slow things somewhat for the first quarter of 2019, the signs are that Northern Ireland will become a far more attractive place to do business which is good news for jobs, and we are already seeing considerable positive movement, particularly within the within back office, shared service centres, engineering and legal sectors.

“Belfast’s reputation for Centres of Excellence has done much for the economic landscape and has reinforced the region as a highly desirable place for foreign direct investment.

“All indications are that recruitment requirements will continue in an upward trajectory across the majority of areas and that organisations will seek to hire those professionals who will give their companies a competitive edge.”

The annual research report is based on data taken from over 1500 respondents including employers and candidates across a range of sectors as well as data taken from job placements, and is undertaken by Brightwater throughout the year.

Brightwater has offices in Belfast, Dublin and Cork, and employs 95 people across Ireland and Northern Ireland.  It celebrates its 20th year in business this year.