Why work in Manchester?

In many ways, Manchester was where it all began. The global economy; the wealthy, futuristic cities of today; our cars, trains and planes, consumer technology - virtually everything can be traced back to the origins of the industrial, developed world. Up until three centuries ago, this was a place that didn't exist, not in any form. But then, in a quiet part of northern England, a perfect storm of cotton, coal, location and innovation set the wheels of change in motion. Fast forward to today, and now lot's of people want to work in Manchester.

Manchester's origins

At the beginning of the the 18th century, Manchester was just a quiet market town with a tiny population - a place of little significance on a local, let alone, global scale. In the space of a few decades, all this was to change. With a climate suited to textiles production, close proximity to the UK coal fields and a newly-built canal providing sea access at Liverpool, it was the ideal location for the new factories to spring up. Before long, thousands of people were rushing in from the countryside each year to work in the mills - a revolution was underway.

The arrival of the railways in 1830 - the first passenger line in fact - helped Manchester confirm its position as the industrial capital of the British empire - perhaps even the world. By 1900, 'Cottonopolis' had become one of the ten most prosperous, and populous, cities on the globe, although more difficult times would lie ahead.

The Great Depression, the emergence of foreign competition and a changing political climate hit Manchester hard during the 20th century. The demise of its textiles and manufacturing base propelled the city into a long spiral of decline - one that would last for many years. As London emerged as a more dominant economic force, built on the services industry, Manchester - along with other once-mighty industrial cities such as Glasgow, Newcastle and Sheffield - faded from the limelight.

The city today

Manchester has fought its way back from the brink. With a clear vision for the future and a willingness to embrace change, it has been transformed into a super-modern 21st century business hub. Ever respectful of its vast industrial heritage, the city has undergone a wide-ranging regeneration and rebranding exercise. Skyscrapers and ultra-modern office blocks have replaced the derelict mills and back-to-back terraces, helping to attract a new wave of businesses and wealth to the north.

The 2011 census confirmed that Manchester - home to 2.55 million people at the time - can once again call itself the fastest growing city in the UK. Its improved standing in trade terms means investment continues to pour in, bringing trade, jobs and ultimately, talent. With its accessible location, modern infrastructure and excellent transport links - including a thriving international airport with two runways, and direct rail links to London - Manchester is now seen as a great place to do business.

What's it like to work in Manchester

With an employee base of around 250,000, Manchester has the largest regional financial and professional services hub in the UK. This has become the largest industry in the city, accounting for a sixth of total employment, ahead of manufacturing, health, retail, education and the creative/digital sectors. International banks, major accountancy firms, law firms and leading consultancies are among the city centre's occupants, meaning there are plenty of opportunities for talented individuals.

Various firms have established their national or global headquarters in Manchester - including Begbies Traynor, Swinton Colonnade, Leonard Curtis, AJ Bell and The Co-operative Group. Many others - such as Deloitte, KPMG, Barclays, RBS, Baker Tilly and Google - have a regional office in the city, providing their staff with a viable alternative to living and working in London.

There's little doubting the opportunities available for those who choose to work in Manchester, and the north of England generally. When surveyed by Robert Half in August 2014, 56 per cent of senior executives said they would be adding new positions in the second half of the year. This was up from 34 per cent 12 months earlier - demonstrating the growing strength of the region's jobs market. Another 35 per cent of employers said they would be maintaining existing headcount, with just nine per cent implementing a hiring freeze.

HR directors claimed talent shortages are abundant in the region, with 93 per cent of employers claiming it is difficult to attract candidates with the skills and experience they require. Some 33 per cent said it is 'very challenging', owing to a shortage of skills, the increase in general demand, and a lack of technical expertise.

Estelle James, director in Robert Half's Manchester office, noted that hiring levels are returning to pre-recessionary levels in the north, as many C-suite executives look to add more weight and support to their departments. "Businesses are no longer just replacing leavers but are now looking to substantially expand their teams," he claimed. "Financial services and finance & accounting, in particular, are current and future growth areas, with professionals being highly sought after." The upshot of this is that skilled professionals may be able to command a premium in Manchester - bagging themselves an attractive pay and benefits package.

Living in Manchester

There is clearly plenty of opportunities for skilled professionals to work in Manchester, but there is plenty more to this city than just business and commerce. As well as its well-known industrial story, you've got Roman history, world-class sport, famous bands and a vibrant arts scene to consider. On the subject of bands, you've got Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Smiths, New Order, Stone Roses, Oasis and Elbow just for starters. Then there's the influential 'Madchester' rave scene, and at the other end of the spectrum, the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic symphony orchestras.

In recent times, much of Manchester's global fame and prestige can be attributed to the success of its football clubs. The long era of dominance enjoyed by Manchester United has earned the Red Devils a worldwide brand with millions of fans, while an expensively assembled Manchester City side - currently champions of England - has been doing its bit to promote the region of late.

Beyond soccer, there's county and international cricket at Old Trafford - home of Lancashire CC and, on occasion, England - while the city is spoiled with top-class sports facilities put in place for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

The centre of Manchester is jam-packed with bars, restaurants, theatres, galleries and museums, meaning there's plenty of scope for a fulfilling life beyond the office. Although there can be a premium to pay in central areas - this is a major city after all - money stretches further than in London. Property prices are lower, particularly away from the central business district, offering greater value for your earnings.

In summary

As one of the first true 'world cities', Manchester is right to be proud of its past, and celebrate the role it played in the industrial revolution. Yet this is a city with eyes firmly set on the future. Regeneration work in Manchester is ongoing, as investment pours in to this growing northern trade hub. With the prospect of a HS2 link in the years to come, its appeal as a centre for business is only likely to increase. It's one of the most exciting place to live and work in the UK, perhaps even Europe.

Looking for a recruitment agency in Manchester? Click to here to see which jobs are available, and how you can plan a move to the city.

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