Belfast Telegraph

'Any big ticket economic issue can affect what we are doing on the ground locally'

Recruitment boss Barry Smyth tells John Mulgrew that the Northern Ireland jobs market is showing some confidence and people are hiring again

While the macroeconomic ramifications of a slowdown in China might not initially seem relevant here, recruitment boss Barry Smyth thinks otherwise.

"Any big ticket economic issue can affect what we are doing on the ground locally," he said.

Chatting in the laid-back confines of the latest addition to restaurateur Niall McKenna's empire, Cast and Crew - located in the Titanic Quarter - the 44-year-old founder of specialist recruitment firm MCS Group talks shop.

He says the jobs market, especially for the professional services industry, is strong in Northern Ireland.

He set up his company in July 2008, and, alongside his wife Louise, now represents a host of big firms, from their Linenhall Street office in Belfast.

He set up just weeks before the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, which sparked a global recession.

"At that time, the economy was on the slide - no one knew what was ahead. We opened and were doing well, and then Lehman Brothers went bust.

"Everything changed... on a business level it meant companies that would be booked in bulk on a Friday, were then saying, we are not recruiting."

The recruitment firm specialises in IT, professional services and engineering. It counts big names among its clients, including Citi and bus builders Wrightbus.

Barry has more than 20 years experience working in recruitment, starting his career off with Grafton in 1993.

And it's a business which is growing at pace, employing 22 staff with plans to expand yet further still.

The father-of-three said he tried to create a different type of recruitment firm, and saw three gaps in the market - ethics, quality and delivery.

"We will turn over a little bit short of £2m this year. This time last year we made an announcement to grow to 30 people by the end of next year."

As Barry tucks into a rather healthy looking chicken and couscous salad, and I mull over my fresh smoked salmon lunch, he says the jobs market here has "cautious confidence", with IT and engineering witnessing a boost.

"We are probably a bit more cautious than the rest of the UK and the Republic. But there is confidence, and people are hiring - that's solid."

Barry says that as far as the affect international events can have on the jobs market, the slowdown in China and the crisis in the EU has a direct impact on Northern Ireland.

"We are watching what is going on. China will affect the economy. If something went badly wrong, and started knocking on, then we are all going to be affected."

Next week Margaret Canning dines with Jonathan Dobbin, director of Barclays Wealth and Investment Management

Belfast Telegraph