When you are considering your carer options, Giles O’Halloran suggests you ask yourself what you want from your life and your work…

We keep hearing from Government, think tanks, professional associations and other such organisations that there is an increasing skills shortage. Our economy is changing and this puts new demands on the skills, competencies and adaptability of the workforce. So understanding what is happening, why and where the opportunities lie is important to anyone thinking about their career going forward.

This article will not cover all the areas to consider, or drill down into specific sectors, but it does aim to get you thinking about next steps, whether you need to retrain or whether you have transferable skills for those areas of interest, and get you thinking about researching sectors of interest.

What is happening and why?

The UK has been a respected and globally linked economy for a number of centuries. It has always punched above its weight and we are still doing so. However, changes over the last half century have meant that much of what we do, what we produce and what we sell as an economy has also changed.

Historically we have been a leading industrial and trading power. We have built a strong overseas presence and become one of the leading financial services sectors in the world. This last bastion of power still remains, but our industrial might has declined and our economy has moved predominantly from blue collar to what is called white and pink collar work – from making things, to services and creative/innovative sectors.

However, financial services, the sciences and engineering still remain key foundations to our economy and are respected globally alongside our creative capabilities.

In very simple terms, as the world develops, competition from abroad increases and technology is playing a great part as well

– especially in how we create, make, distribute and package good or services. Many countries now offer cheaper production facilities and labour forces, and as a result it is easier to offshore certain services or work to these centres. This has not just affected manufacturing, but also services as well. This combined with the added dependence on technology in our work means work has changed and often we have to up-skill as a result. It may not appear that way as it happens (job loss, redundancy, re-skilling, retraining etc.) but it is a realistic net effect of our economy and what has happened.

So, in light of these changes, which sectors offer opportunities?

Technology – Infotech, Commstech, Biotech, Medtech…Just about Anytech

The UK continues to be a world leader in the technology space and long may this continue. The fields of medical science and biotechnology in particular are booming, and this is giving rise to new scientific disciplines such as biophysics, biomechanics etc. This is a very specialist space, but one that people may wish to invest time and education in if they want a fulfilling career.

In the same light, communication and information technology are also fields that that UK have always been strong in. The more global we become, the greater our dependence on technology and the appropriate communications infrastructures grows. The aerospace and defence sectors are also where we are considered a world leaders. This means that technical and design skills will be in demand, and the growth of technology across all the disciplines could offer interesting careers for those with the aptitude and passion for this sector.

Social Work, Community Work, Care & Third Sector – making a difference to lives

With the decrease in public spending and this looking to continue, more public services are likely to be outsourced or moved into the third sector (charities and community based projects and enterprises). This trend is a reality and is already taking place, which means there is an increased demand for social work , community, care and support skills. It may not be the best paid sector, but money is not and should not be a sole motivation. This sector does provide a very rewarding, and challenging career path, but the work you do will also make a difference and have a real impact on lives. If you find this kind of work rewarding or stimulating, it could be the right choice for you.

Engineers – Mechs, Techs et al

As with technology above, there will continue to be a demand for the engineering sector. Civil engineering always seems to get the most focus, but you should look at the growing focus on advanced manufacturing, medical technology, aerospace and the energy sectors. These are all established or exciting new areas that continually develop and offer opportunities. The number of courses and qualifications are also increasing, together with the differentiation in role from operator, to technician, designer to engineer. It remains a very interesting and growing space for those with the right skills and ambitions.

Contact Centres & Care – Customers can create a career

Customer contact and care continues to be a sector that is surviving and often thriving in some areas of the UK, despite what people may believe with call centres moving offshore. Whatever the ups and downs, this continues to be a successful business model, often running as an outsource operation for one or more organisations. Careers in this field can be quick moving, demanding but also very lucrative if you have the ability and drive to succeed and develop into senior management.

This field is likely to expand in areas where manufacturing or low skilled work is being replaced, but also offer employment and skills training where it does take place. However, it is a culture and a type of work that will not suit all people, so take time to look into this if it is something that sparks your interest.

Logistics – it’s not just about A to Z, but every bit in between

Wherever we are and whatever we do, goods and services need to move around in order for the global economy to work. However, some elements of logistics, such as transportation, have been impacted by rising fuel prices, cheaper labour from new EU members and are also potentially threatened by developments such as 3D printing – where a design can be shared globally but built and distributed locally. Yet despite the doom and gloom, there is still a need for logistics, it is just the game and the elements of the supply chain model are changing.

If you move outside towns, you will continue to see the construction of major warehousing or storage facilities, as well as the adaptation of older industrial estates to accommodate these developments. These facilities have been built to effectively manage leaner and cheaper supply chains – driving down the cost to suppliers and consumers.

The growth of “one stop shop” super market empires and the increased use of internet trading platforms have contributed to this phenomena as well and have driven the need for goods to be stored cheaply but with access to transport networks. These supply chain operations have provided excellent opportunities for this looking to move into the logistics field or leverage their previous careers and experience.

Retail – There is more than meets the eye

Retail is a very large sector in the UK that is often undervalued. Retail allows us to purchase the goods and services we need, whether via boutique operations, online, via a major warehouse operation or via larger set ups like supermarket chains and shopping centres. We devalue the job and career opportunities that exist within this sector. The truth is that these stores and companies are providing and developing multiple or specialist careers paths for staff and often provide excellent training schemes. There is also the potential for more work variety, the chance to develop transferable skills, or to specialise in trades/qualifications that once existed to be on the high street and have been brought in house.

The greater use of technology means that the roles are also up-skilling, and there is always the opportunity for management and leadership posts that value previous experience. So, think about it – it could be an interesting opportunity for you going forward.

Trades – Everything under the Sun

Despite what some might believe, there is still a big demand for specialist trades and new ones have developed over the last two decades – PC repairs, Rework specialists, Solar engineers, Satellite Installers, Digital Locksmiths etc. There are many other similar trades in demand that allow you to develop an effective second career, but also offer you the chance to start or run your own business. This remains a real attraction for many who have used redundancy payments to fund courses to go down this route or have wanted to set up their own operation based on a genuine interest. It gives many the opportunity to do something specialist, rewarding but offers them independence as well.

Financial Services – still a UK powerhouse

Despite the banking crisis and the way any people feel about the Financial Services sector, it is still a growth sector and offers a very stable career opportunity for many in the UK. Financial Services are not just about banking, they also covers smaller operators such as business and personal loans, mortgage brokers, debt management and advice, credit management, financial advisors and the massive insurance sector as well. There are many facets to this whole world and one that many can carve a lucrative career from if they make the right moves as they progress. Despite all the bad press, it is still an area that offers well paid opportunities for careers and contract engagements.

Small Medium Enterprises – can offer some of the biggest opportunities

People often forget that the larger businesses only employee about 10% of the total workforce in the UK. In reality, it is the small business and SME sector that employees the bulk of people. We should not overlook this or take it for granted, as some of the world’s largest and most respected companies began as SME or start-up operations. Not only is this sector more flexible, but you can also build a wider array of skills and capabilities through you work.

You can continually develop and there are always opportunities to move into new sectors. Despite the belief that employment security is less, it is often the opposite. The larger organisations are the ones that usually cut staff, whereas the smaller companies are often more agile and can usually adapt to harsher environments, often retaining staff through creative means. So, don’t take this sector for granted, it can offer you some of the best and more interesting opportunities, and could act as a catalyst for your career.

Whatever job or career you decide upon, think about what you enjoy doing, where your strengths are and where the economy is going. You can then start to forge a rewarding career path for you and one that will give you enjoyment. Also ask yourself why do you need to have just one career path? Many people are now changing careers more than once or twice in their lives. It is very much about you and what you want from your life and your work. So keep an open mind and keep your finger on the pulse of change in the economy.

About The Author

Giles O’Halloran is an experienced Recruitment and HR professional, with a wealth of knowledge in both sectors. He has worked for a number of large and respected organisations, including blue chip and global recruitment companies. Giles has spent over 15 years providing CV writing, interview preparation and professional networking support to clients in both the public and private sector. He also has over a decade of service in two branches of the Reserve Forces. Feel free to connect with Giles via LinkedIn or follow him onTwitter

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