The food sector is often seen as enjoying an element of protection in recession, since food is a basic human need. Michael Staniland, director of food recruitment specialist Focus Management, told FoodNavigator.com that the food sector is “not immune”, but it often responds more quickly to the signs of recovery than other industries.
Following the crash in October 2008 there was an overall dip in recruitment in the sector. But since June there has been “a definite uplift in briefs from clients” in the UK, said Staniland, and new business is up on last year too.
“Clients still think it is a buyer's market, but we have candidates out there with multiple offers.”
Part of the reason could be food companies pulling forward recruitment campaigns originally planned for January, as they are seeing the “green shoots of recovery”.
There is also a need to bring new starters on board in time for the busy pre-Christmas manufacturing period.
Indeed the most vacancies are in operations, manufacturing and technical management at the moment, followed by product development and commercial (sales and marketing).
There are the least jobs around in the service sector, such as IT, finance and human resources.
Job-seekers from elsewhere
Because of the food sector’s relative resilience to economic strife – after all, everyone needs to eat – it is currently being seen as an attractive place to work for professionals in other sectors.
“Automotive people want to move into food,” said Staniland. “Their skills are transferable.”
He added that recruiters may prefer applicants with a number of years in food under their belt for technical and product development roles. “But from an engineering or manufacturing management point of view, automotive or telecoms experience can bring real value.”
The view from Europe
Focus Management operates on an international basis, and works with clients in mainland Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and some in the US too.
Since October 2008 it has seen consistent business in the Middle East. But Europe, where the downturn took longer to take effect, has yet to see the same recovery as the UK.
Spain has been particularly badly hit, Staniland said, “worse than the UK”.
New year, new job
So what about the food sector’s job market in 2010?
Much depends on how major retailers perform in the Christmas trading period, a critical time for food’s fortunes, and Staniland expects that further consolidation will occur next year, because of trading conditions.
But the view from Focus is far from dismal. “We’re in a positive mood as a business. We have clients coming forward on a daily basis,” he said.
Focus Management’s website is at http://www.focus-management.co.uk