An increase in the number of apprentices and school leavers joining the consulting industry has contributed to a growth in headcount in the sector including over 4,000 consultants now working in the North West region for MCA member firms. The Management Consultancies Association (MCA) is the trade association for the management consulting industry in the UK representing leading consulting firms which adopt the principles of Consulting Excellence. The latest research from the MCA also revealed that the North West is one of the areas with the highest proportion of staff based outside London. Firms are supporting clients across the North West as they look to improve their productivity, transform their digital capabilities, and adapt to rapidly changing economic and social conditions.  

 The growth in staff in the North West region in consulting over the last few years ranges from 15% to 17% with businesses such as EY, PwC, KPMG and Deloitte recruiting more employees for their local offices. Firms such as Mott Macdonald, Grant Thornton, AtkinsRéalis, North Highland, IBM Consulting, and BAE Systems Digital Intelligence as well as smaller consultancy firms such as Mason Advisory and Collinson Grant are also examples of successful and growing firms based in Manchester.  

At a recent meeting with the MCA, Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said: 

“It is positive to see growth and new jobs in the North West. It is important that people in local communities across the region have access to high quality jobs, whatever their background, and it’s good to see new routes into professional services for apprentices, school leavers, and graduates being offered by small, medium, and large businesses in the consultancy sector.”

Firms both large and small are engaged across the region in transformative work, from supporting the region’s burgeoning tech and media ecosystem with the application of new technologies such as AI, to unlocking productivity and connectivity through work on the Bee Network, Greater Manchester’s integrated transport system. The North West region, along with the West Midlands, hosts the largest numbers of apprentices outside the capital with Manchester one of the most common locations for regional offices with 1 in 3 (35%) of consultancy jobs created based outside of London. 

Firms from the Manchester region did particularly well at the recent MCA Awards. Mason Advisory was the winner of the Social Value category for its work with Northumberland County Council improving broadband connectivity in remote areas of the county and North Highland were winners in the Change and Transformation in the Public Sector category and winners of the overall Project of the Year. The St Peter’s Square based firm partnered with the Ministry of Justice to improve digital prison services to help staff and prisoners. 

Tamzen Isacsson, Chief Executive of the Management Consultancies Association, said:  

“More consulting jobs are being supported in the North West thanks to a strong increase in demand from clients for work in the region in areas such as business transformation programmes, tackling cybersecurity threats and support and guidance on adopting artificial intelligence.  

“We are seeing further evidence of the increased accessibility of the industry via different paths and in every part of the UK, including the North West. As well as school leavers, apprentices and graduates, the industry also continues to hire large numbers of experienced consultants and more senior employees of all ages as professionals look to apply their skills in consultancy.” 

Consultancy firms provide employment all across the UK with 274 office locations outside London with medium sized firms accounting for more than half (162) of regional offices. Large firms have collectively increased their number of regional offices to 86 in the past year and the number of regional offices of small firms has increased to 26.  

Across the UK, the MCA Annual Industry Report revealed that over 2,800 graduates were hired in 2022 (35% increase on 2021) alongside just under 800 apprentices, trainees and school leavers (11% increase). Overall, there has been a 16% increase in headcount growth for 2022 with 51,000 people employed by MCA member firms across the UK, with a total of over 102,000 management consultants estimated across the wider industry. Medium-sized firms in particular drove headcount growth last year, recording an 18% increase (up from 10% in 2021). This reflects the strong growth in consulting of 23% as clients turned to consultants to help with digital transformation, procurement and sustainability.  

Latest forecasts from leaders across the market suggest that, although growth has slowed from the record peaks last year, the sector is still forecast to achieve double digit growth in 2023 and continues to achieve record exports overseas. Given the huge fluctuations in client demand since the pandemic, some readjustments to workforces and the balances of skills within firms is expected however firms in the North West see a positive trajectory for growth and headcount in the North West as it works hard to ensure it meets future client demand. 

As well as an average of 7.5 days training and development, younger consultants are also joining the pathway to become Chartered Management Consultants. The Chartered Management Consultant (ChMC) Accreditation is the highest recognition of a management consultant’s expertise, experience and talent given within the profession and has been developed to set and maintain the highest standards in management consulting. It has been adopted widely across the industry with many young consultants on the journey to becoming Associates. 

You can read more about the various roles available in consulting in the Young MCA ‘Day in the Life’ series at  Young MCA News – MCA. Further information on the findings can be found at MCA 2023 Annual Report – MCA