Confident tech sector set to boost employment

Hi-tech manufacturers are Britain's most confident companies, research reveals today, with almost half planning recruitment sprees this year.

The research, commissioned by the US-based conglomerate General Electric (GE), suggests that 71 per cent of hi-tech businesses are optimistic that their performance will improve over the next 12 months, even though a quarter of such companies posted double-digit growth in 2010.

The sector is also poised to deliver a much-needed boost to the employment market, with 48 per cent of companies pledging to take on staff during 2011, with plans to expand their workforces by an average of 5.7 per cent.

Four-fifths of companies in hi-tech industries rely on exports for at least some of their orders. But most are confident about the prospects for demand from overseas, predicting a 12.3 per cent increase in orders from overseas buyers. Domestic demand, by contrast, is expected to rise by 5.8 per cent.

While some companies remain nervous about the economic outlook, particularly with commodity prices expected to add to operating costs, the research will boost the Government, which has made the promotion of hi-tech manufacturing a priority as it works to rebalance the economy.

But the research also suggests that more help from the Coalition could lift the sector, with only a third saying that the conditions for hi-tech manufacturing in Britain are positive.

Nevertheless, Mark Elborne, the president and chief executive of GE in the UK, said hi-tech manufacturers were much more confident than many other businesses.

"[Our research] shows a vibrant and positive sector that can help revitalise the UK economy over the next few years," Mr Elborne added. "Many of those surveyed had a positive 2010 and feel confident about 2011, particularly when discussing the potential in export markets."