Companies ramp up recruitment ahead of major new data protection law

Jobs in data protection and cyber security have soared in the last three months according to Bank
Gary McDonald Business Editor

JOBS in data protection and cyber security soared by 78 per cent in Northern Ireland last year as businesses prepare for the introduction of new tougher data protection legislation in March, a new employment report has indicated.

And the top performing sectors in the north for job creation in the last quarter of last year were science, agriculture, pharma and food (up 48 per cent), production and manufacturing (up 35 per cent) and engineering (up 34 per cent).

The data from recruitment website in conjunction with Ulster Bank says the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May - which will give people more control over their data and aligns data protection policies across the EU - is leading to a flux of jobs in that area general manager Sam McIlveen says: “Many businesses are working hard to prepare for this more robust law and we've seen considerable demand for staff with experience in data protection.

“Given the size of the fines a business could incur, we would expect this would continue to be an area of growth for recruitment. These types of jobs along with their niche expertise are here to stay.

“And running alongside the data protection jobs we are also experiencing a rise in cyber-security roles, again due to the new GDPR legislation. Data protection and cyber security go hand in hand.

"Not only do people have to know how their data is being used by businesses but they also need to be confident that their data is stored securely.”

Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey believes one of the key challenges facing businesses in Northern Ireland will be skills shortages, due in part to increased demand in areas linked to the global recovery and the fact that EU nationals in many sectors are leaving for elsewhere.

"EU nationals are increasingly attracted to faster growing parts of Europe such as the Republic of Ireland where the more favourable exchange rate may also be a factor," he said.

“Employers will also be under pressure this year to increase wages as inflation rises and economic conditions remain relatively positive. Many will also be contending with the mandated National Living Wages increases. With rising inflation, the retail industry and consumer sensitive sectors will also come under pressure due to a squeeze on consumer spending. This may well curtail recruitment intentions in these sectors.

“Conversely, with visitor numbers continuing to rise and a number of new hotels due to open, recruitment in the hospitality and tourism sectors should continue but these sectors are expected to find it more difficult to fill vacancies.”

The latest data from indicates that the number of jobs listed fell by 3 per cent in the final quarter of 2017 measured against the previous three months, but is up marginally on the same period in 2016.

Mr Ramsey added: “The strengthening global economic recovery is feeding through into increased demand in Northern Ireland's export intensive sectors. Production, manufacturing and materials continues to punch well above its weight with a significant number of vacancies. This is notable in Co Tyrone and Co Down where a number of companies in the sector have been recruiting heavily.

“Engineering continues to fare even better with the most vacancies of all sectors bar IT. Science, agriculture, pharmaceutical and food posted the biggest quarterly improvement in job listings and the highest number in almost three years. Looking ahead the strengthening global economy bodes well for Northern Ireland exporters and workers employed in these sectors.”

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