HOW BUSINESSES CAN HELP BRIDGE THE NORTH – SOUTH DIVIDE

BY JOHN RODDY, CEO OF THE SHIELD GROUP

JOHN RODDY, CEO OF THE SHIELD GROUP
JOHN RODDY, CEO OF THE SHIELD GROUP

The green shoot of recovery might well be on its way as the UK economy shows signs of growth, but the things are not looking any brighter in the North of the country.

According to recent figures from the OECD and other key economic indicators, the UK economy is set to grow at an unprecedented rate in the next few years; some predicting the UK economy will grow by up 3pc. This is great news and reflects the increasing consumer confidence in the economy.

However, this new dose of life will not necessarily filter to the rest of the country. Historically, London and the rest of the South East have always grown faster than any other part of the country and these regions have some the lowest unemployment rate in the country which was the case before and during the financial crisis.

Last month, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that unemployment fell by 4000 to 2.51 million and the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in July fell down by 29,000 to 1.4 million. In itself, the figures suggests that some people at least are able to find work.

What these figures do not lay bare, is that many of these ‘jobs’ are in part-time roles and often on ‘zero hour contract’.

Despite the progress made on a national level, the North East remains the toughest region in the country to find employment. By contrast, the unemployment figures for the South East stands at 6.2% while, on average, the North East region remains at over 11%. In other words, 148,000 people eligible for work remain unemployed in the North East.

Another worrying trend is that of the numbers of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) in the North. Figures suggests 17.8 per cent of young people in the North East and West Midlands are NEET compared with just 12.8 per cent in the South West.

Many businesses like ours operating in this region have struggled, at times, to fill vacancies because the labour market lack the experience needed as they have not been in employment or have only accumulated experience in low-skilled professions.

These issues can be abated by improving the ‘school-to-work’ transition so no young person falls through the crack. This is why I’m in full support of the government’s flagship ‘apprenticeship schemes’. It is preparing young people properly for the world of work through high-quality work experience and careers guidance and, in some cases, a recognised qualification.

This was the thinking behind The Shield Group’s investment in management development with the creation of a new Diploma – genuine level 5 Diploma in Total Security Solution. We recently invested over £1m into the innovative Management Development Centre. These pioneering initiatives have supported The Shield Group to achieve a high staff retention rate where 48% of our workforce have worked with the company for over 5 years. This only goes to create a stable workforce with world class expertise and high morale.

If the government is unable to turn things around, the private sector will need to step in to bridge the gap and it’s just as well the economy is growing to enable them.

John Roddy is the CEO of the UK’s tenth largest business security company. The Shield Group provides innovative, streamlined and specialist security services, implemented under a total security solution business model, to its customers nationally. www.theshieldgroup.com