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Inter-county rivalry should be saved for the GAA pitch – Midlands Gateway Conference told.

Congratulations to the organisers of last Friday’s excellent Midlands Gateway Conference (Westmeath Co. Council). In his insightful address, Sean Dorgan CEO of the IDA made it abundantly clear to delegates that the Gateway approach is effectively the only show in town for the Midlands counties Offaly, Westmeath, Longford and Laois. There simply is no plan B and business leaders would do well to put their misgivings behind them and work together on a regional basis. Without this co-operation they will fail to capitalise on the critical mass of population as set out in the provisions of the National Spatial Strategy and they will risk being left behind altogether by the more established hubs. And he certainly wasn’t mincing his words.

He also explained that Ireland is no longer the only country offering many of the attractions which foreign investors look for. As a region the Midlands has to compete globally for inward investment with other hubs as far away and diverse as Singapore and Sydney. The presence of AIT in the region remains a critical point for most companies who decide to locate here.

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A word on listings – both offline and online

In the early nineties I used to walk for several blocks of durty Dublin just to pick up the latest copy of the Event Guide . There was a lot going on entertainment-wise in the capital even back then – enough to fill a decent tabloid-sized free newspaper full of listings.

In that era also, jobs in the Midlands were few and far between which is why so many of us used hop on Kearns’ bus every Sunday night to get back to the city for work on Monday. Move forward a decade and a half and the big magnet in the East is finally losing it’s pulling power over us. Or maybe it’s that the main attractions are closer to home now (or maybe a bit of both). Cheaper living, better quality of life and higher standards locally with everything you will need on your doorstep, entertainments included.

One way or another, the wheel has gone full circle and there is already enough jobs on offer in the Midlands to warrant an inclusive listing of the best vacancies with the best local employers. Nowadays the most practical format for a listing is online, offering easy access from anywhere, free to view and with simple search and match capabilities… just watch this space.

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Economic slow-down… me @rse !

… There may be some employers who might have been almost relieved to hear it if things were slowing down somewhat on the recruitment front. For over 10 years now they’ve had to scramble to find staff in certain sectors with some HR departments providing a virtual “fire brigade” service in dealing with staff turnover. The [disappointing] news for those companies is that no real slow-down appears to be here just yet anyway. And there will be those who’ll point out that for commentators as dependent on recruitment as we are to be stating otherwise would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

So fair enough, not all areas are still booming. There’s been talk locally for 6 months now about some construction crews running out of work and houses not selling. But that also used be the case during bad weather spells even three and four years ago.

You can only agree with those who say it’s dangerously possible for us to simply talk ourselves into a slump. And there’s never been any substitute for just getting on with the small things that you can do individually to make yourself, your business or your employer’s business more competitive and viable for the future. Put simply, that’s how business here pulled itself out of the doldrums to start with. Diversifying where it needed, investing where it needed, educating, training and placing a strong emphasis on productivity. So really nothing has changed. That was all needed as we entered the tiger years and that’s what’s still needed now – less talk and more do.

Certainly anyone who has driven around any of the main midlands towns in the past 6 months and seen the levels of activity going on must have great difficulty believing there’s any kind of economic struggle. Portlaoise is like one big building site, likewise Athlone while Longford, Tullamore and Mullingar town centres are now almost impossible to find parking on any day of the week. There is at worst a “readjustment” of things, possibly with emphasis shifting from one sector to another, but definitely (and it must be said, thankfully) no slump.

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Avoid the hiring pit-falls

A guide for new companies with limited recruitment experience. Here are a few of the pit-falls to watch out for:

  1. Not allowing enough time: It can take roughly 6 weeks for all advertising, interviewing and then a notice period for the successful candidate’s current employer. (It can take a lot longer if it’s a specialized or technical job).

  2. Publicity: Don’t presume suitably qualified candidates will come flocking to your door. Put the word out through both traditional press and online media and do it in good time. Include local agencies in your search if your budget allows and certainly contact them if you’re getting closer to your deadline.

  3. Paper doesn’t refuse ink: Prepare well for your interview questioning. While it doesn’t need to be an interrogation session, some cv’s can be spiced up – you’ve got to tactfully tease out fact from fiction.

  4. Candidate handling: Treat all candidates as though they are valued regardless of how irrelevant their application seems. New opportunities may arise for them in the future. Also it’s nicer to be nice and it’s better for your PR. Modern forward-thinking companies have all this down to a fine art.

  5. Prepare an adequate job description: This is now always essential for almost any job as it will set out the very purpose of the role. It should be referred to early and often during the selection process and it should contain a catch-all phrase such as “and any other relevant duties as required by Management”. Thinking this through properly now can save you so much time, hassle and money in the long run.

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Lies, damn lies and statistics

A recent analysis of online registrations onto the Midlandjobs database show that small but definite trends are starting to emerge.

Tullamore was selected as the location of choice amongst job-seekers – 51% of all candidates registered expressed an interest in hearing about jobs based in the town.

Athlone was the second choice at 42% and Mullingar third at 41% of the total no. of candidates saying it was one of their preferred places to work. (Longford and Portlaoise showed 23% and 22% respectively). 

On the employer side however Tullamore only accounts for 12% of the total no. of companies registered with the site, with Athlone holding the greatest no. – 23% of the total and Mullingar just behind at 22% of the total.

So what do these numbers tell us if anything?

Possibly it’s saying that Tullamore is seen as a nice place to live and work. It could be saying that Tullamore is more commutable from the other main midlands towns than anywhere else with other towns of growing population within striking distance such as Birr, Portlaoise, Edenderry, Clara etc.

The strongest likelihood however is that Tullamore has a greater concentration of people commuting to Dublin city to work every day. People who are anxious to find more local work. And who can blame them as the dreary dark days of September loom again.

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The Apprentice – Week 9

Did they chose the worst possible candidates this year on purpose just to make it better for TV? Your man Tre seems to be lasting way longer than he should have and in fact looks like he might even win.

There’s one guy left who seems to have contributed little or nothing, this Lohit fella. And overall there are really only 2 serious contestants – our girl Kristina and Simon. It’s still hard to believe that this 6 left are the absolute best out of 10,000 candidates auditioned for the show. Still, it is entertaining I guess.

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Our stall now well and truly “set out”

The basis for our service is to offer a tight listing of sought-after jobs for the Midlands region – Offaly, Westmeath, Longford & Laois. However, we also endeavour to have a decent variety of jobs to cater for most interests. From that point of view, the mix of jobs currently on offer (17th May 2007) is the best we’ve had so far.

If you look at the featured jobs section you have everything from a Data Analyst in Portlaoise to a Financial Planner in Athlone to a Lab Assistant in Longford. All very live jobs, ie. “recently” posted. As well as including a good mix of agency jobs, by now we are satisfied that our stall is fully “set out” and we’re open for business.

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The Midland Jobs concept

Here we go..

Yet another wannabe Bill Gates, raimeising on about his latest website. I can think of more interesting things to be reading.

And yet there is a case for explaining how a new website comes into being. What is it’s purpose in life? How does it go about it’s business?

Why is needed? Does the world really need another jobs website?

There’s a very special and unprecedented set of circumstances in Midlands recruitment right now. Even leaving techie developments out of the discussion for the moment, there seems to be loads going on here.

First off, there are some fairly major road developments busting their way down through the region. There are countless new housing and accommodation developments. Many major shopping complexes are under construction in the main towns with more planned. More commuter trains to the capital than I’d say ever before. Every week when you open the local newspapers there’s another announcement about more jobs in… There’s even been some realistic enough talk about a regional airport around the Horseleap area. And don’t even get me started on the whole Midland Gateway, National Spatial Strategy thing.

I used to work as a recruiter here in Mullingar. emerged out of that. Not just as an idea but out of a sense of necessity. The other HR resources then available to me, well established and all as they were, at times could be toothless enough. The technology was available for me to make a dedicated regional HR resource into a reality. So I did it.

What if you put together all of the material relating to local recruitment under one (virtual) roof? What if you totally excluded information about recruitment in any other part of the country? If you brought together listings by companies who themselves are perhaps not normally involved with one another. Jobs listed by say a retailer in Laois, featuring alongside engineering jobs in Longford. If you could feature jobs with some of the smaller local companies. The whole idea seemed too appealing and workable for me to not have a go at it.

But to anyone who might be expecting a big PR / marketing push for… you’ll be waiting cause it aint gonna happen. One of the cool things about being in the Midlands is the relative lack of hype about everything. People just get on with whatever it is they do without fuss. Work, community, sport, whatever. It’s just the midlands way, where a spade is a spade. A breath of fresh air you could say. And our job site aims to reflect exactly that same no frills approach.

Interestingly more and more people who register online with cite the source of their enquiry as “word of mouth”. It is hoped that this blog, the forum, will help with that process of building awareness. So in a way, this post is about as close to a press release as we’re ever gonna get.

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The Opening shot..

Yesterday I attended an event by Westmeath County Enterprise Board about the subject of blogging. There were a number of speakers from the IIA (Irish Internet Association) all extolling the benefits of blogging for people in small businesses. Such as myself.

In all honesty, I went along with a fairly sceptical view of what blogging was all about. These days there seems to be endless schemes for getting people to spend all of their time gazing into a computer screen. (Bad enough really). And then I just can’t say that I’m a huge fan of having to read other people’s spoof just for the sake of spoof.

But I must admit, “traditional” websites can be sterile places. Take my own website, is (by design) a super-functional site. It only says what it needs to say and does only what it needs to do. Nothing more. It’s a no-frills, take no prisoners sort of website.

It’s very purpose was to to allow people to easily find and apply for the jobs which interest them in the local towns. So they can work right there where they want to work. And they can apply as quickly and as hassle-free as possible without having to read reams of information before they get to what they’re looking for. Thankfully I’d say, that much has been achieved.

It occurs to me now though that the users of the website, both job-seekers and recruiters alike, might value an area which allows them to discuss the issues that are of interest to them. These discussions don’t need to be cluttering up the main website, but they could have a valuable purpose in their own right.

I have been in both situations, both recruiting and job-seeking and without a doubt there are things to talk about for both groups. So despite my initial scepticism, I’m happy to start the conversations here today, even if only on a trial basis for the moment. You the reader, may have some valuable feedback for us about the Midlandjobs site itself. Whether it has been of help to you – or not as the case may be. And if not, how can it be improved. We’d be interested to hear from you.