The opportunities for IT professionals in Shrewsbury have increased dramatically in the last 10 years, but so much more could be done to promote the sector and maximise opportunities in the County Town.
We established Greenfield IT Recruitment in 2009, in the first three years of trading only a small proportion of our annual revenues derived from our home town, less than 5%.
Very few local companies had an IT department of more than a couple of people, a number of technology firms were in “start up” mode and one or two digital marketing firms had “a tech guy”, that was it. Even the public sector bodies had very small IT departments and their staff turnover levels were very low.
At the time the salaries for Shrewsbury based IT opportunities were lagging behind the rest of the country. Working close to home was seen as a lifestyle choice, if you could find a local job you had to put up with the low wages, this is one of the reasons Shropshire was known as “the graveyard of ambition”.
Anyone eager to work in a larger IT department or wanting to work with “Enterprise Scale” technology had to either go to Telford to work with at HMRC (EDS / Fujitsu / Cap Gemini) or face a longer daily commute to places like Birmingham, Manchester, Stoke or Chester.
Greenfield’s client base was a reflection of this also, as it made no commercial sense to to chase business with local firms looking to do things on a tight budget, when our regional, national and international clients had much deeper pockets.
How things have changed!
While we remain the only technology focused recruitment business in Shropshire, demand for our services locally has surged.
In the last 18 months, we have placed Business Analysts, Project Managers, Testers and Software Developers using all the major programming languages, DBA’s, a number or infrastructure folk, a technical architect and an IT Director within the town and peripheral villages.
There are now quite a few businesses that now have sizable tech teams, Shrewsbury has incubated a booming entrepreneurial SME Tech sector and all of the marketing agencies have capacity to develop web sites for their clients. There is also a general shift in attitude to more flexible working arrangements add to that the roll out of ultra-fast broadband – allowing people in Shrewsbury to work from home when their employer could be based anywhere in the the country or even overseas.
Shrewsbury even has its own “tech meet up” in the form of Shropgeek , which Greenfield have been supporting for last 5 years, where tech and creative types can get together in an informal and friendly environment to listen to lighting talks on a variety of subjects over a beer.
So there has never been a better time to work in IT if you live in Shrewsbury, against the back drop of chronic skills shortages nationally, pushing the salaries up as firms compete with regional employers to attract and hang onto their people.
NB – Still work to be done.
It’s not perfect; there is still work to be done by Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council. They need to promote and incentivise tech firms to either relocate to the town or start up here, rather than just letting local people get on with it.
Furthermore our local University of Chester campus does not deliver any IT courses.
While I accept there is some support from “The Growth Hub” it is very generic. If you look at other Marches towns like Worcester, Malvern and Hereford as they created the Malvern Cyber Cluster, known nationally as Cyber Valley – they press on with developing 5G commercial applications with a strong focus on R&D attracting a vibrant talent pool and companies like QinetiQ and Yamazaki to the area.