There’s more to working in the West Country than surrendering to the magnetic pull of Bristol and Bath. If you are prepared to broaden your horizons it’s possible to find fabulous jobs in truly gorgeous parts of the region - such as Devon, recently voted by Country Life Magazine to be the best place to live for quality of life in England.
Whether you are itching to relocate to a rural idyll or fancy somewhere a touch more cosmopolitan, here’s a whistle-stop guide to some of the West Country’s lesser mentioned regional economies.
Fields, fields and more fields. It’s the enduring image of Devon, a county that has four times more agricultural activity than the national average. The Roman city of Exeter emphatically bucks the trend; a cosmopolitan capital in this greenest of counties. The to-ing and froing of over 20,000 students lends to the city’s progressive feel when it comes to culture with a diverse offering of music, art, theatre and dining. It has everything you could want from a city, without the stifling nature of larger urban areas.
Diverse cities have diverse economies - and Exeter is no different. Excellent transport links with London, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester have attracted a steady influx of big businesses, with professional services a prominent sector in the city including major law firms, financial services organisations and a host of construction and property services. The Met Office (which moved to Exeter in 2003) is a big employer - as are public service bodies such as Devon & Cornwall Police, Exeter City and Devon County Councils and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
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With its sheltered creeks and sandy coves, South Devon is a hotspot for retirees not and holidaymakers with a soft spot for the golden age of the British holiday. As such, the hospitality industries are well represented in this part of the West Country, with businesses doing their best to attract more and more of the Grey pound. There is also a good spread of successful artisanal food and drink businesses and the magnificent Riverford Organic leads the field with their head office in Buckfastleigh.
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The tourism industry is worth double in Devon compared to the UK average. That’s largely down to North Devon - home to rugged headlands, jaw-dropping coastal scenery and some of the finest surfing beaches in Europe. It makes Devon a hugely popular destination for long sunny weekends and summer escapes - the amazing diversity of restaurants and hotels reflects that (the Brend Group alone has a notable collection) and there are campsites galore many with stunning views. Of course no blurb on the North Devon economy would be complete without mention of Appledore Shipbuilders - a successful shipyard that has been a proud part of North Devon since 1855 and has built everything from dredgers and research ships to ferries and superyachts.
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Think Plymouth economy, think maritime. HMNB Devonport – the largest operational naval base in Western Europe - employs 12,000 people and acts as a base for around 7,500 in the Armed Forces. It’s responsible for an estimated 10% of Plymouth’s income. The city’s two universities - Plymouth University and the University of St Mark & St John - also employ well over 3,000 staff.
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Given its film-set beautiful coastal scenery, it’s unsurprising that Cornwall - or should that be Kernow - is another part of the West Country where holidaymakers drive the economy. In fact the tourism sector contributes 24% to Cornwall’s GDP and supports around 1 in 5 jobs. Agriculture is another big sector, with around 10,000 employees.
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We aren’t going to shy away from this stereotype because our proud heritage of Cyder making is certainly something to shout about. That being said, there’s more to Somerset than apples. Somerset is home to a number of large manufacturing businesses including the world famous Mulberry, still hand sewn in Shepton Mallet. There’s also the market town of Taunton – less than two hours by train from London and with a number of professional services in easy reach of the M5 or town centre. Just down the road in Bridgewater there is also the huge Morrison’s distribution facility employing over 1,200 people in a range of logistics roles.
The M5 is a vital artery into the West Country. And wherever there are good transport links you will find a slew of engineering, manufacturing and distribution firms. One of the West Country’s most famous is Supacat, who design custom, high-spec emergency vehicles for the world’s most challenging environments: stormy seas, warzones and off-shore oil fields.
Ready to find your dream job in the West Country? Your search starts here.