Belfast is a city ripe with opportunity. Yet despite its skilled workforce, high-growth economy and excellent transport links, it is still overlooked by some as a global business destination.
For many companies looking to expand onto the island of Ireland, Dublin may still be the default destination of choice. However, Belfast is swiftly growing an international reputation thanks to its two airports and cost-competitive business infrastructure coupled with its great quality of life.
Today, the economic engine of Northern Ireland is a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education, business and law. Last year, Belfast was ranked the world’s number one business friendly city for its size by the fDi intelligence division of the Financial Times. This year, the city was hailed as the best performing region of the UK for foreign direct investment job creation on a per capita basis. Needless to say, against this backdrop it is unsurprising that opportunities for recruitment consultancies and wider HR related organisations in the city are rife.
In fact, given this positive sentiment, Alexander Mann Solutions added a Global Client Service Centre in Belfast to its international network in 2014 and the team has never looked back. With such a confident hiring market, we also launched our own Belfast Recruitment Academy in partnership with the Department for the Economy and Belfast Metropolitan College that has proven hugely popular, with 44 per cent of our workforce based in the capital consisting of Academy graduates.
Northern Ireland's inward investment agency, Invest Northern Ireland (INI), has been pivotal in driving the city’s ongoing success. Tasked with promoting the region as a great place to do business internationally, it also offers practical support to those looking to start or grow a business in the area. In 2015-2016 the agency promoted 5,550 new jobs across Northern Ireland against a target of 4,000, securing £341million of employment related investment into the economy. Over the past five years, INI has helped businesses promote nearly 42,500 new jobs, representing a 39 per cent increase on the previous five years.
Northern Ireland's regeneration projects and external investment in the province mean that increasing numbers of business and commercial interests are moving to the area. However it’s not only global corporations that are driving economic success. According to data compiled by the Belfast Telegraph, the top 100 businesses registered in Northern Ireland collectively increased pre-tax profits by 10 per cent in the year to April 2016.
From a talent perspective, Belfast’s candidate pools and pipelines are particularly rich. The Department for the Economy, formally the Department for Education and Learning, invests heavily in nurturing local talent. Working closely with industry and academia, it operates an extremely successful skills development programme, Assured Skills, which ensures that new inward investors and existing businesses can be confident that the workforce is successfully equipped with the appropriate skills both at launch and for future expansion. Primary and secondary education is strong, with GCSE and SAT results some of the highest in the UK. As is the provision of further education, thanks to the Universities of Ulster, Queens as well as the city’s Metropolitan College.
Aside from home-grown talent, Belfast is increasingly becoming a destination point for ambitious professionals, not only from within the UK, but also the world over. At Alexander Mann Solutions, for example, our Belfast Global Client Service Centre is now home to colleagues from many parts of Europe.
From a recruitment perspective, several sectors in the area are faring particularly well. Traditionally the city was built on manufacturing, and despite recent high profile closures the industry is still thriving. Today Belfast’s business services sector, which currently employs over 13,000 in areas such as finance, legal, accounting and shared services, is also strong. CitiGroup, one of the city’s largest employers, trades 10 per cent of foreign exchange in the city and Santander’s Corporate & Commercial arm has just opened a Corporate Business Centre in the city centre.
Belfast is also the number one destination globally for financial technology investment as well as Europe’s leading destination for new software development. Northern Ireland Science Park, recently rebranded Catalyst Inc., is expanding its huge Belfast base, along with two new developments in Londonderry, as part of £100million growth plans. This is expected to increase the size of Northern Ireland's knowledge economy by as much as five-fold over the next 15 years.
The city’s ongoing development means that the construction sector is also buoyant, with over 30,000 locals employed in the sector contributing to an annual output in excess of £2 billion.
As global specialists in talent acquisition and management, the benefits of operating in Belfast for Alexander Mann Solutions are real and compelling, despite post-Brexit uncertainty. Thanks to government and external investment coupled with a highly-skilled workforce, the city seems immune to the staffing challenges faced by other regions, and Belfast’s star looks set to continue rising.