Following our blog exploring recruitment in Guildford, we switch our attention to recruitment in Brighton, another of the cities The Recruitment Lab operates in.
We take a dip into the sea and the job landscape to see what local employers and job seekers face and why recruitment in Brighton is not straightforward.
So, we know Brighton. Or at least, we think we do. Lively, diverse, colorful, the fabled ‘London-by-the-sea’ with the world-famous Laines shopping district and distinctive landmarks like the Royal Pavilion, the Palace and West piers and the British Airways i360, actually not the tallest moving observation tower in the world – but hey ho!
It also hosts world-famous events like the annual Brighton Pride parade and festival as well as the new music festival The Great Escape. It’s a hugely popular tourist destination for its nightlife and beach, attracting families, schools, and Stag/Hen parties galore.
Local Party Politics
Politically, it’s a very interesting place as well. The surrounding area is true blue, but the three Brighton seats are currently held by two Labour MPs and the first and only Green Party MP in the UK: Caroline Lucas. She’s been in since 2010 and took 57.2% of the vote in the last election.
Let’s not get political here, but these leanings have given Brighton a reputation of being unique in it’s thinking. Walking, cycling and public transport in the town is actively encouraged and taken up by residents. The infrastructure to support this is excellent; scenic pathways, plentiful bike storage, a community bike scheme across the city, and an excellent bus system with new, eco-friendly buses. Of course, the other thing is the cost of parking a car in Brighton…it is enough to make many residents give up this luxury!
This Green thinking does mean a lot of road space has been taken from private motorists so if you’re looking to commute into Brighton on the roads, or drive within it, you can expect your journey time to be substantial.
The other assumption given to Brighton, perhaps intrinsic with its political agenda, is a free-spirit. Now whilst the positives of this attitude far outweigh the negatives, it does leave Brighton with some tangible negatives to have to deal with; such as a fairly high crime rate, particularly when it comes to drug crime. An interesting stat taken from Healthwatch Brighton & Hove suggests that a quarter of 15-year-olds in the area had tried cannabis which is a UK high.
Brighton is also an area sadly recognized as having a large number of homeless people in the city. Whilst the Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition has done great work to bring the numbers down, it still sits within the top 10 in the country, according to the Big Issue.
It’s a very expensive place to live. Let’s get that out in the open first and foremost. A large number of residents will commute outside of the city center to work, whether that be as far as London or across East and West Sussex. That’s helped by Brighton’s extensive train service, spidering directly out to Ashford in the east and Portsmouth in the west.
Within the city, the average family wage is varied. The BBC report that those in the Withdean area could be on an average of £39,000 but Whitehawk (a couple of miles away) has an average salary of £21,500. This isn’t hugely surprising with many cities containing these swings in earnings but Brighton is perhaps more unique given its small size and similar architecture. Indeed, the Whitehawk area is far closer to the fabled beachfront and holds plenty of green open spaces.
As far as job sectors go, there’s obviously a huge retail and hospitality presence in the city. A result of high tourist numbers. That creates a slight seasonal swing given a large number of outlets across the beachfront which see are busy in the Summer months. These bars though form a large part of the student experience in Brighton so tend to be well-frequented all year.
As far as office sectors are concerned, sales, IT, finance, gaming, and charities make a lot of noise when it comes to recruitment in Brighton. But Brighton has a large number of start-ups and smaller firms with only a handful of large-scale operations running within the city limits. That means many of these firms run a lean ship and keep overheads low.
Nomis will tell you that the unemployment rate in Brighton is just under the national average at 3.7% (with the NA being 3.9%) with 62% of residents in employment. A large number of the remainder of the population are students (9.8%, we’ll come to them in a bit) and about equal amounts retired (9.3%.) Most seaside towns and cities in the UK have a higher than average unemployment rate. The fact that Brighton has managed to come just under the national average suggests there is employment and industry, and a better than average economy compared to other seaside towns. This is most likely down to its population size and desirable traits listed above.
Those aforementioned students are blessed with choice when it comes to Brighton and Hove with the University of Sussex, Brighton University and BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) all available to them in the city. There are about 45,000 students in the area between those campuses alone.
Recruiting in Brighton
In theory, there’s a lot to like about recruiting in Brighton. There’s a talent pool of skilled and well-educated workers either gleaned from the local universities or relocating to the city. It’s a lovely, scenic place to live so a lot of students stay within the area after. Plus, with the area ranking high for costs, people need and want to be in work to live and enjoy the city.
There’s also lots of interesting and varied employers with a generally high level of job satisfaction to be found.
However, all of the above points to one key problem for jobseekers and recruitment in Brighton: COMPETITION. Large numbers of applicants can be applying for roles with average or above-average salaries. You also get a market where there is a fairly small amount of movement at the upper ends. Subsequently, this means less career progression in many cases.
This leaves a large swathe of ‘entry-level’ roles being snapped up by high-quality candidates. In turn, this has a knock-on effect all the way up and down the job ladder. Some roles will favor the recently graduated, degree educated self-starter, with others wanting to see some job experience accrued first. A right chicken and egg scenario for some.
This level of competition also means that the average salary is lower. With the city selling itself and the ‘lifestyle’, employers know that the salary will sit lower in the requirements of many job seekers. Indeed, Payscale.com puts the average Brighton salary at £27,000, below the national average of £29,600. This only serves to reinforce the reputation of Brighton as a ‘lifestyle’ city as opposed to a career one.
It means you might be better off looking for work across the rest of Sussex or towards London, if salary and career progression are your main goals.
Advice for Jobseekers
I guess our key thoughts for job seekers is to be prepared for a lower wage than you might expect elsewhere. As painful as that may seem know that it’s no comment or your ability. It is simply market dynamics. It is how recruitment in Brighton works.
Think of the benefits of such a move; perhaps you can walk or cycle to work? Enjoy the extra benefits of the city like the beach and the relaxed lifestyle? Do these pros outweigh the cons?
As far as the competition element goes; make sure your CV is fully up to date and ensure you can be contactable. A digit wrong on a telephone number or email address and a company may just simply turn to the next candidate in line. Reply to communications promptly and keep telephone etiquette high at all times. Any call is a chance to show your strengths.
Advice for Employers
With the high demand for work in Brighton, employers are in a strong position. Candidates need to prove themselves so employers can afford to be a little picky. However, with many candidates desiring a foot in the door and unable to gain the initial experience, employers need to ensure that they consider all options as there’s a huge swathe of talent that all too easily can get swept under the carpet.
Brighton’s considered a transient employment market. There is a higher staff turnover than in other areas of the UK. This is down in part to candidates taking early job offers so they can pay the bills. They then look at leaving these and moving into higher paid asap. In some cases workers leave the city as quickly as they arrive – it just didn’t work out!
Recent reports also suggest higher rates of absenteeism and lower rates of production among Brighton workers than the national average…and why not when the beach is ready to go and the bar is open!
This is difficult to account for, of course, but employers should ensure they delve into a candidate background. Establish their motivations behind needing work. Those with immediate costs and a future plan may stick at a role longer than others in Brighton for the lifestyle.
It may sound obtuse and convenient to suggest that an agency is the best way to hire but, taking bias aside, agency protocol (if they’re worth their salt) should be to spend plenty of time with a job seeker, encompassing all elements of the hiring process: written, telephone and face-to-face contact. This means they are in a strong position to comment on the quality of any given application.
So, Brighton’s great, of course, but the job market has its challenges and intricacies to overcome. Employers need to understand what makes their applicants tick and why they are looking for work in the first place. While employees need to be mindful that they may have to sacrifice aspects of their careers. It could be salary, development, or progression. But that could be the cost of truly living and working in Brighton.
About The Author
Daniel Oldfield is the Branch Manager of The Recruitment Lab, a Brighton recruitment agency. He has worked in Recruitment for six years. He has a degree in Journalism and considers himself a film and music buff. Daniel also runs The Brighton Film Club review site in his own time. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would like to express your thoughts just contact Dan through The Recruitment Lab website.