Throughout the last decade, there have been very few industries which have emerged unscathed from the crippling financial burdens of the global recession.  With profits falling at a staggering rate and firms having to cut back on staff, UK employment levels wavered and wage bills plummeted. However, despite the economic downturn, there were a number of ‘recession proof’ job roles and skill sets which have remained in demand and stood the test of time. 

Research conducted by Randstad has found that technology professions have suffered least during the recent economic downturn and are therefore considered the most ‘recession proof’ in the UK. Surprisingly, despite government cuts, the study also revealed that public sector jobs have remained resilient during the economic crisis when compared to those in the private sector, with social workers, nurses and teachers outranking professions such as building trades and retail sales assistants. 

So with a clear divide between the public and private sectors and with technology professionals proving to be the most sought after, we’ve highlighted the job roles which not only survived but saw growth during the recent recession, as well as the transferable skills that have proven to be resilient to all economic conditions.

Recession proof skills in different sectors

The tech sector 

A dramatic increase in demand for IT skills in the last decade has seen tech professions become the most recession proof. The total wage bill for full-time tech employees rose by 82 per cent from 2002 to 2014 and a total of 400,000 people were employed in IT roles throughout the recession period. 

Randstad Technology’s Ruth Jacobs believes that “the growth in fin-tech jobs and IT security jobs have helped the tech sector do well compared to other industries”, so much so that bonus payments within these professions are now “second only to investment bankers”. 

With employment opportunities in fin-tech on the rise, developers who are competent in programming languages such as Java, C++, C# and Python are therefore in high demand as well as business analysts who can simplify complex tech jargon and justify potential technology investments. Alternatively, if you are to succeed in IT security, you will need to be well versed in intrusion prevention, identity management, access control and malware protection.  

Construction & Engineering 

According to new research conducted by Randstad CPE, higher-skilled construction and engineering workers have a better chance of securing long-term employment and weathering a recession. As a result of consistent skills shortages and a lack of long-term construction and engineering projects, only the intensively-skilled and specialist areas of the sector have seen steady wage growth and demand for employment throughout the recession period.

Civil engineers lead the way when it comes to salary growth with their combined wage bill rising from just over £2.0 billion in 2002 to almost £2.9 billion in 2014. Electrical engineers and mechanical engineers also rank highly for recession hardiness after seeing a 17% and 16% growth in their total wage packets during the economic downturn. This means relevant engineering degrees, licenses and certifications are essential as well as strong project management skills, an excellent grasp of physics and mathematics and a good understanding of advanced control systems.

In construction, quantity surveyors scored highly and also saw high wage growth throughout the 12-year period. The ability to read architectural drawings and strong numerical and IT skills are essential for this role along with the ability to manage finances and organise complex construction processes and supply chains.  

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Public Sector Employment

Randstad’s Care and Randstad Education’s recent studies suggest that private sector professions remained largely unscathed during the recession with those working in roles such as nursing, social work and teaching seeing growth within their collective wage bills. A 30% increase in nurses from 2002 to 2014 along with a considerable upsurge in teaching and social work positions benefited workers in these fields and proved each industry was capable of weathering recessionary pressures.  
Relevant qualifications for these roles are obviously essential but excellent people skills, communication and observation skills and a practical and flexible approach to work are also necessary to succeed.  

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The Financial Services Sector

Accountancy professionals showed they were most capable of enduring the changes to the financial services sector during the recession. Research conducted by Randstad Financial & Professional revealed that the accounting profession’s aggregate salary bill rose by 11.5% between 2002 and 2014 whilst the average salary bill for other private sector professions plunged by 37%.  Tara Rick’s, MD of Randstad Financial & Professional, commented on these statistics by arguing that “Accountancy is recession resilient.  The profession’s comparatively high aggregate salary bill demonstrates accountants are in the enviable position of being in demand whatever the financial weather”.  

By weathering the recession, accountants have proved that having a strong understanding of taxation, corporate finance and auditing financial information are strongly desired skills. Analysing accounts and business plans, dealing with insolvency cases and conducting financial forecasts and risk analysis are also key for steady employment in the financial services sector.  

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