Belfast Telegraph

Skills shortages are pushing up pay in Northern Ireland, according to survey

Cathal O Donnell
Cathal O Donnell

By Mark McConville

Skills shortages are driving the highest pay rises of up to 10% within some roles in the Northern Ireland jobs market, new research has found.

The 2020 salary survey by recruitment firm Brightwater has revealed that people in roles such as automation engineers and supply chain, warehouse and transport managers are enjoying a boost to their pay packets.

Group accountants earned around £38,000 to £42,000 a year, according to the survey.

Newly qualified solicitors earned between £22,000 and £30,000, while an ICT sales manager raked in £50,000 to £75,000.

A project engineer earned around £32,000 to £45,000 while a head of engineering earned between £50,000 and £70,000.

The survey also found that salary rises of between 3% to 5% are expected in accountancy, finance, IT and most jobs in engineering and supply chain logistics.

Economist Maureen O'Reilly said that the Northern Ireland labour market has continued to "perform well" in 2019 against the backdrop of "relatively subdued economic growth driven in large part by Brexit uncertainty", but also other considerations including the lack of a functioning Assembly in the region.

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"Some 878,000 people are in work, the highest rate on record (72%) and unemployment is at an all-time low of 2.5%," she added.

"Private sector wage growth has picked up with an average increase of 3.4% over the year. There remain some key labour market challenges (lower labour market participation, higher reliance on public sector jobs) but the overall shape of the labour market in Northern Ireland at present is sound."

Brightwater regional director Cathal O Donnell said the job market here remained "dynamic" despite Brexit uncertainties.

And even though some major companies such as Wrightbus had made staff redundant, skills were still thin on the ground.

"Ironically, despite overall contraction in jobs numbers, employers in manufacturing and some services, say they are experiencing a key skills shortage," he said.

"As in 2019, 2020 will see a rise in salaries across some sectors such as accountancy, IT and some areas of engineering but in certain areas of IT and manufacturing where there is a considerable shortage of talent, we have seen some salary increases up to 8%."

And he said the food industry was seeing a greater variety of roles, so that students were now taking more creative courses at agricultural colleges Loughry and CAFRE to learn about product development and the environmental impact of food.

"These highly qualified professionals are now driving the Northern Ireland food industry forward with a passion that has not been seen for some time, showing the positive impact regional colleges can have working in partnership with local industry."

And the prospect of Brexit meant that new skills sets were required.

"The transport industry is now recruiting customs specialists and finding these candidates when there is a generation who never needed to know about such regulations is proving very difficult."

Brexit uncertainty had an impact on recruitment in the engineering sector in 2019 with fewer jobs on the market due to processes being streamlined to reduce costs, the report found.

It is expected growth will remain slow in this sector until the latter part of 2020.

And the survey said that as the National Living Wage has increased to £8.21 per hour, those working long hours in minimal wage jobs were found to be making just as much money as middle management candidates.

That in turn was driving pay rises in that sector, particularly in supply chain management, up by 10%, warehouse/transport management up 10% and supply chain planning up 5%.

Belfast Telegraph