Norfolk sheds low-wage label

Skilled workers in Norfolk are earning better salaries and closing the gap on workers in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, according to a new survey.The research from East Anglian recruitment consultants Cooper Lomaz found that Norfolk is beginning to shake off its image as a low wage county, although workers in sectors such as IT and accountancy are still paid less than counterparts in the south of the region.

Skilled workers in Norfolk are earning better salaries and closing the gap on workers in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, according to a new survey.

The research from East Anglian recruitment consultants Cooper Lomaz found that Norfolk is beginning to shake off its image as a low wage county, although workers in sectors such as IT and accountancy are still paid less than counterparts in the south of the region.

But in other areas such as food processing, engineering and human resources, workers are often on a par and sometimes ahead of workers in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

The Cooper Lomaz salary survey covers a diverse range of sectors, from financial services and office support to food processing and engineering, and is based on the company's database of 80,000 interviews with job candidates and 300 employers across East Anglia.

Cooper Lomaz works with many of the region's major companies including Norwich Union, Premier Foods, Greene King, British Sugar, Anglian Group and Virgin Money.

Salaries covered in the survey start at £11,000 for a post room assistant to £160,000 for a group finance director.

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Two sectors to perform well in 2006 were engineering and human resources, which Cooper Lomaz believes is a reliable guide to the buoyancy of the region's business and employment prospects.

Jane Lovell, Cooper Lomaz joint managing director, said: “Businesses really value highly-skilled human resource (HR) professionals who can manage change and make the difference to a company's bottom line. It is also a sign that businesses are growing and becoming more competitive.”

She said the image of HR being purely an administrative role within a business was now outdated, and was reflected in a salary rise last year of £5,000 for a typical manager's post.

The survey also showed that the food processing sector - where engineers are always in demand - flourished in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire last year, with a clear need for production managers.

But there are too few factory production managers and technicians specialising in product tasting and development needed to respond to the fast pace of change and wide range of legislation in the food processing industry

“We are having to be innovative in finding these candidates who are on top of the ever-changing laws, and they can expect good packages,” Ms Lovell said.

Analysis for the survey is carried out by recruitment consultants who specialise in specific employment sectors to build up a detailed knowledge of their markets

“We have a team of 45 consultants who are responsible for every stage of the recruitment cycle for clients and candidates. They are living and breathing in their specialist market,” said Ms Lovell.

Trends that stood out in 2006, which and are likely to continue this year, were “golden handcuffs” packages and longer notice periods for prized candidates.

“A notice period of three months is becoming more usual as companies understand the impact on their business of losing their key personnel,” Ms Lovell said.

Accountants who have gained their qualifications with one of the blue-chip firms were also in demand, the survey found, with this trend likely to continue.