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Brightwater's Regional Market Insights

16 Dec 2020

Tom Wilkinson, Commercial Director of Brightwater’s Cork office gives his insights into the regional hiring market for 2021 and reviews the year of 2020.

Overview of Cork /Regional Market

At Brightwater Cork, we recruit across several areas of the jobs market. We place mainly qualified professionals across accounting, finance and tax as well as IT, sales, HR, engineering and life sciences. We work with multinationals and SMEs based here in Cork, in the greater Munster region and also in the Connacht region.


What is your speciality area of recruitment?

I personally recruit for qualified professionals in finance, accounting and tax. I work with a lot of the large accounting firms, SMEs and the large multinationals here in Cork and in the greater Munster region.


What sectors / roles were hit worst by the pandemic in the Cork / Munster region?

I think the worst hit areas when I go back to March / April of 2020 were probably the hospitality and the retail sectors in particular were hit pretty badly. I think year on year, just to look at figures for that period, the job market activity fell about 80%. So if you look at March/April 2020 versus the same period in 2019, job activity fell by up to 80%. A lot of roles were put on hold, momentum was lost in recruitment processes and unfortunately for a lot of people who had committed to roles during January and February, they went through a real period of uncertainty wondering whether employers across every sector were going to come back to them and commit to them on the offer that they had previously made.  

One of the other areas that was hit quite badly was sales & marketing. We saw a real drop off in sales roles being registered and an increase in the number of experienced sales professionals suddenly finding themselves on the market due to the downturn in economic conditions that we all experienced over March/April/May. That is coming back but very very slowly.

What sectors / roles remained steady during the pandemic in the Cork / Munster region?

I think the main areas that remained steady were engineering, medical, pharmaceutical and IT. Construction has come back quite strongly over the last couple of months but I think to be fair, across Munster and Connacht, we have a lot of life sciences, medical devices companies. We have a lot of engineering companies and we have a lot of new IT companies especially in the Cork region and their recruitment remained pretty steady. It did drop to a certain degree but it remained pretty steady throughout March and April and has come back quite strongly over the last few months especially after August, when we hit the “return to school” period.


How did your clients adapt to working in the pandemic?

Most of my own clients are in accounting and tax and they work in an office environment. They were able to make the transition fairly easily from working in the office to working from home. Speaking with them at the time, their main concern was around productivity and like most businesses, they were concerned that work levels would be maintained and that targets would be delivered upon but for the most part, the feedback has been really positive. I think a lot of companies were initially looking at offering working from home options anyway so it did come at a good time. Especially here in Cork, we have a number of large multinationals  who operate large accounting and finance European back office teams. They’ve seen some great wins working from home. Now they are able to offer this as an extra benefit to their staff.


How did job seekers adapt to remote working / interview processes in the pandemic?

Those candidates who did remain in the job market in the last few months have been quite fortunate. Attending a physical interview is now something that doesn’t happen so interviews are now taking place on their laptops via a Teams Call or a Zoom Call. This has really sped up the interview process so candidates who have remained on the market who have had to move jobs in the last few months have really benefited from the lack of travelling and the number of physical appointments that usually take place in the recruitment process. In terms of on-boarding, some companies that are big enough have been able to onboard new employees virtually. Sometimes the candidate has never met anybody in the company apart from a Zoom or a MS Teams meeting but thankfully processes have been able to complete successfully.  

What are the key skills employers look for when making a new hire?

When employers are hiring, there are two key areas to consider. There is the technical background and there’s the qualification piece. I work in the accountancy sector and in tax so the majority of my roles would be for qualified professionals so technical skills and an accountancy qualification are essential. In certain roles, when a role is more senior or it’s a managerial role, then the sector will also be very important as well and the background of where the candidate is coming from. Of late, managing the challenges of the current market, communication has become very important, collaboration has become important and team work is increasing in importance as well. All these factors are required when we’re recruiting new candidates.

Have salaries in the Munster region changed in the pandemic?

For the most part, salaries have remained stable over the last nine months. I think the backdrop to 2020, if you go back 12 or even 24 months, we were working in a 100% employment market where the pressure on salaries was always upwards and on good benefits as well. I think even though the economy has been very challenging this year, especially the jobs market, in the areas where we recruit, the demand for those key skills still exists, particularly within life sciences, IT and accounting. Because of the shortage of those skills in those markets, salaries have remained the same and even increased in some areas.

What do you predict will be key hiring trends for 2021 in the Munster region?

In the second half of this year, we’ve seen a real increase in the number of temporary and contract roles coming onto the market. These have essentially taken the place of permanent vacancies and we would really encourage candidates who are actively looking, to engage and apply for these roles as they will lead to permanent roles eventually. With the vaccines coming out, the market should be stronger towards the second or third quarter of 2021.

In Cork, we’ve also seen quite an increase in the level of construction as housebuilding is back. That’s reflected in the job boards, there has been quite an increase in the number of construction roles being released by companies. I think we’ll continue to see the multinationals recruit in volume next year. Med-tech and life sciences will continue to be strong in 2021 here in Cork but I think engineering and construction are the two that look the busiest at the moment and they should be really busy in 2021.

If you need career advice, help in preparing your cv or just a chat about what options are available to you across the Munster and Connacht regions don't hesitate to contact our Cork office on [email protected] or 021 4221000