The town of Reading in Berkshire has a population of over 340,000 and a thriving local economy. According to a recent report, it has had the fastest growing economy in the Thames Valley area for the last twenty years and this growth is predicted to continue. The town has been placed at number two in an index of the best places to live and work and enjoys the sixth highest employment rate in the UK.
Being just 40 miles from London, for many businesses the town has become an attractive alternative to the capital. Both national and multinational companies have chosen to locate their British headquarters here, taking advantage of the town’s excellent national and international transport links. Heathrow is a mere 40 minutes away along the M4 and its position on this main transport artery means other major cities are easily accessible. London can be reached by rail in as little as 25 minutes and the arrival of the high-speed Crossrail line at the new £900 million Reading station will give further flexible access across the South-East.
In addition to this excellent connectivity, the town offers businesses a strong and well skilled labour market and affordable high quality accommodation in the town centre and modern business parks .
It is hardly surprising therefore that a wide range of employment opportunities can be found in the town. Read on to discover the top ten job sectors in Reading.
Reading recently took third place in a survey analyzing the best towns in the UK for digital technology. With over 11,000 businesses and 42,000 people active in a variety of ICT sectors, including Artificial Intelligence, eCommerce, Cyber and Gaming, only London and Manchester have more tech organisations. The big names include Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Wipro, Microsoft and Oracle but so-called new wave tech firms such as CloudFactor, Splunk and VirtualStock have also made Reading their home.
Given Reading’s reputation as a digital business hub, there are a plethora of telecoms firms based in the town. Chinese giant Huawei has had its UK headquarters at the Green Park business park in Reading since 2017 whilst international telecoms companies Verizon, Ericsson, Vodaphone, Telefonica and Cisco also have a major presence in the town.
Biopharma and Biotech
Many leading biopharmaceutical companies have a base the Thames Valley. Reading’s excellent communication links allowing easy access between these pharma clusters has attracted companies such as PRA International, Quintiles and Symantec to locate in the town. Many of these companies are based in The Green Park business park including Bayer, one of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies.
Energy and renewables
Reading is fast establishing an enviable reputation for attracting businesses involved in the green energy innovation. This is underpinned by strong research bases at The Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research at Reading University and the European Centre of Media Range Weather Forecasts. Utility providers Scottish and Southern Electricity and Thames Water have their HQs in the town center. The multinational energy engineering company AMEC Forster Wheeler has also chosen to locate its UK HQ in the town.
Defense and Cybernetics
Drawn by the world-class cybernetics research carried out at Reading University and the Atomic Weapons Establishment, located just outside the town, a cluster of defence related businesses have been established in the area. Rockwell Collins, a blue-chip defence and aerospace company, is based at the Winnersh Triangle and Thales have a new state of the art HQ in Green Park business park.
Transport and Logistics
Reading has become an important logistics and distribution hub thanks to its excellent road, rail and air links. Brake Bros have a large distribution centre at Suttons Business Park while Tesco chose junction 11 of the M4 for their vast distribution centre. Parcel delivery company DPD have a depot serving the Thames Valley in Imperial Way. The retailer Argos also has a major distribution centre in South Reading.
The Creative Sector
There has been major growth in employment in the creative sector in the Thames Valley and the area is fast becoming a hub for creative industries. A survey found that Reading is the fourth largest creative cluster in the UK, with over 5,000 creative businesses.
Reading is a major retail centre with major department stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser occupying prime town centre sites. The town’s two main shopping malls (the Oracle and Broad Street) are home to many of the national chain stores, whilst the three smaller arcades house smaller independent stores.
The regional and national offices of many household names in the financial sector, such as Barclays, Visa, HSBC and ING Direct and Prudential can be found in Reading. The so-called “Big Four” accounting firms of Deloitte, PWC, Ernst and Young and KPMG also have offices in the town.
No overview of jobs in Reading would be complete without mentioning the food giant Pepsico which has its UK headquarters in Reading. Pepsico owns many familiar food brands, such as Walkers Crisps, Quaker Oats and Tropicana in addition to the eponymous Pepsi.
The effect of Covid-19 on Industry
In June 2020, the UK entered an economic recession for the first time in 11 years. Despite encouraging signs of economic recovery in July and August, this is now being threatened by the current growth in Covid-19 infections and the associated tightening of restrictions. Within this broad trend however, business sectors are inevitably feeling the effects of the pandemic differently.
Amongst the job sectors mentioned in our Top Ten, retail has been the worst affected so far with many household names, such as John Lewis, Boots, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer announcing huge job cuts. IT industries may face losses in the short term as companies tighten their belts and cut back on investment, but in the long term it should bounce back as IT will play an ever more important role in enabling the economy to function. Telecoms companies, however, may see job losses as the roll out of 5G is expected to be significantly disrupted due to restrictions on staff being in close physical contact.
Pharmaceuticals are understandably one of the few sectors which have actually experienced growth in recent months. Innovation has surged, along with stock market valuations, as the race to find better treatments and a vaccine for Covid-19 continues.