- January 18, 2017
- Posted by: TalPro
- Category: Career Advice
Thanks to it is position in the centre of Essex, Chelmsford has been an important hub for trade since Roman times. The county town – which is home to 120,000 people, plus another 50,000 on its fringes – was bumped up to city status in 2012, and it is regarded as the biggest driver of economic growth in the Essex region.
City in transition
Like many cities around the UK, Chelmsford has been in a period of transition over the last two decades, with large firms leaving or downsizing their operations, and a shift in economic focus toward the service sector. The biggest employers used to include soft drinks firm Britvic and defence contractor Marconi, along with a host of ancillary businesses supporting them.
While defence firms still provide a significant number of jobs in Chelmsford, there has been a second transition in the city – from large employers to small and medium-sized companies, driven by the strong streak of entrepreneurship that Essex is known for.
With a journey time of just 35 minutes to London Liverpool Street by train, good road links via the M25 and M11 and Stansted Airport just half-an-hour’s drive away, Chelmsford is well connected for national and international travel.
A pleasant city centre and good housing stock add to the appeal, and the city has a solid economy which is not disproportionately dependent on one sector.
Unemployment was just 3.6% in 2015, well below the national average of 5.1%, while GVA (gross value added) is around the national average.
Sam Edwards of Success Recruit Ltd, based in the city centre, explains Chelmsford’s appeal: ‘Location-wise it’s in easy reach of London but without the same overheads as the capital. The train service is good and the surrounding towns are all on the same line. The city is also well connected by road to London and beyond. It’s a nice town in terms of amenities too.’
Mike Smith, Chelmsford City Council’s Senior Inward Investment, Economy and Growth Officer, believes there are a number of factors drawing companies to the city.
‘The overall quality of life including housing, open space, good education facilities, leisure activities and proximity to London all play a part,’ he said.
‘The high number and diversity of jobs now created here provide excellent opportunities across the many sectors and levels. It remains an area of low unemployment, around 1.0% on JSA figures.’
While Chelmsford’s economy is notably diversified, there are a number of key players in the city.
Mr Smith said: ‘Major employers still include the former Marconi companies, BAe Systems and e2v and the many engineering companies doing work for them. In addition, major international companies such as Visteon, Battelle and IFDS continue to invest in Chelmsford.’
With a major NHS hospital and several private hospitals, there is reliable demand for health personnel – and because the city is Essex’s county town, it has a strong public sector presence. Chelmsford is home to the Essex County Council and Essex Police HQs, as well as to Anglia Ruskin University.
Mr Smith continued: ‘There is strong representation from the finance and insurance, retail and service sectors – notably accountants, real estate and solicitors. Construction features highly as well. Some 8,000 homes and 600,000 sq ft of commercial space plus infrastructure projects are being developed, so the construction sector is booming here.’
Sam Edwards said his recruitment firm had been very busy this year as the local economy picked up further. ‘We are seeing higher demand for entry-level roles than for more experienced staff – there has been a lot of graduate recruitment in particular recently. There has also been a lot of marketing roles coming up and there is demand for people at all levels of experience.’
Retail jobs in Chelmsford
Many of the headlines around Chelmsford’s development in recent years have included the two magic words “John” and “Lewis” – and the prestigious retailer finally opened a new £18m, 120,000 sq ft department store in the city in September 2016.
Accompanied by more retail outlets, a cinema and restaurants, the new store has cemented Chelmsford’s reputation as the shopping hub of Essex. The new development has also given the jobs market a boost, and demand for retail, hospitality and catering staff remains high.
Plans for the future
Chelmsford City Council is in the process of drawing up its Local Plan to take the city up to 2036 – and it hopes to build around 900 homes and generate up to 900 new jobs each year.
Mr Smith elaborated: ‘Employment land is important in this equation with some big ambitions such as an approved 500,000 sq ft business park and new railway station at Beaulieu, in addition to a MedTech Campus as part of an Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) project.
‘A joint project between ARU, Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council established an innovation centre, which after just two years is full and plans are being drawn up for a second building next to it. ARU are also seeking to build a medical school on their Rivermead campus site.’
No matter which sector you work in – whether professional services, construction, retail or healthcare – the future for Chelmsford looks bright.