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February 9, 2010

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Health and safety jobs still scarce but the future looks bright

The earnings of most practitioners have stayed the same or gone down in the last year but only a small minority cite a bigger salary as the main reason for taking a new job.

These are among the main findings of a recent survey of health and safety professionals by HSQE recruitment specialists, Bryan and Armstrong. The company questioned 100 employed, self-employed, and currently unemployed health and safety practitioners to determine how the profession has been affected by the economic downturn.

Job-hunting activity remains at a high level, with 56 per cent of those surveyed indicating they had applied for more than 10 jobs in the past six months, while just over 22 per cent had submitted more than 20 applications. According to Bryan and Armstrong, this reflects both the number of redundancies in the sector and the current shortage of jobs (85 per cent of respondents said their organisation had not increased staffing levels in the past year), but can also be explained by the ease of online applications, which encourages the typical job-seeker to explore more opportunities.

Indeed, most candidates (33 per cent) said their first port of call in looking for a new position would be an online job board — both agency websites and direct-vacancy listings — while 24 per cent said they would register with a specialist agency, and 19 per cent would apply direct to the employer.

In terms of salaries, the survey found there is clearly downward pressure, with 46 per cent of respondents reporting a drop in pay and 27 per cent experiencing a pay freeze. More positively, however, 27 per cent said their pay had increased — and a fortunate 8 per cent of those are enjoying 20 per cent more earnings than the previous year.

Nevertheless, pay is not a major motivating factor in looking for a new job. Only 8 per cent of respondents said an increased salary would be their main reason for taking a new position. More popular incentives were job security (30 per cent), better prospects (25 per cent), work-life balance (21 per cent), and company culture (16 per cent).

Practitioners are also sanguine about the prospects of an upturn in the economy, with 79 per cent predicting that organisations will begin to recruit more in the next 12 months. A possible change in government won’t make a big difference, they felt, as 45 per cent said a Conservative victory would have a neutral effect on the jobs market.

Commenting on the survey findings, Steven Bryan, of Bryan and Armstrong, said it is obvious the health and safety jobs market has been hit hard by the recession but there is cautious optimism about prospects in 2010. He added: “People are applying for multiple jobs, mainly online or via specialist recruiters, and job-seekers clearly value the quality of the working environment and job security over salary. Most participants feel that recruitment activity will increase significantly in 2010, with 80 per cent expecting firms to recruit, and 61 per cent expecting the economy to improve in the coming year.”

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