Insight UK hits back at ‘jobs on the rocks’ claim

'Committed to Sheffield' says MD

Insight UK - part of the giant US-based IT reseller Insight Enterprises, Inc - has hit back at a report that a Government-backed deal to bring more than 1,700 new jobs to Sheffield is "heading for the rocks".

Earlier this week, a Sheffield newspaper, The Star, reported that Insight UK was "not meeting its job creation targets".

The report, based on comments made during a recent council meeting, cast doubt over Insight's ability to meet it job targets.

It quoted Sheffield Council leader, Jan Wilson, who blamed Insight's lack of progress on the slump in demand for IT kit. While she said that Insight was creating jobs in line with government grants, she added that the company was unlikely to produce the number of jobs forecast two years ago.

Councillor Wilson is quoted as saying: "We are optimistic the project will continue, but clearly it will not produce the number of jobs we had wished."

However, Insight UK - which also includes ISP PlusNet among its stable of companies - hit back, claiming that the report undermines its efforts and intentions to bring "high quality" jobs to Sheffield

In a statement, Stuart Fenton, MD of Insight UK, insisted that the company was committed to the city but that it was experiencing difficulties recruiting skilled staff.

Said Mr Fenton: "First, I would like to confirm, unequivocally, that Insight is committed to its UK headquarters in Sheffield and is actively recruiting for hundreds of vacant positions.

"We have built the Insight Campus, a state of the art facility on the site of the old Pulse nightclub. We employ over 370 people in Sheffield. Most of these are highly skilled IT account management roles. We invest almost 12 months in training our people.

"Our sister company PlusNet has established itself as one of the fastest growing Internet Broadband providers in the UK. At the Campus, PlusNet employs over a hundred staff in the highly skilled ISP sector. Both operations indeed, provide the very highly skilled, highly paid jobs that Sheffield is looking for.

"Furthermore, we currently have 50,000 square feet of office space at our Insight Campus location in Sheffield waiting to be filled with new IT account managers. Far from suffering a slump our business is growing and profitable. Far from suffering boardroom reshuffles, the current management team has been leading the business for over 18 months.

"Our major constraint has been the difficulty in recruiting the skilled people we need. A number of factors have hindered our recruitment efforts thus far, including lack of adequate public transport, street lighting and security and the planning department blocking permission to purchase land for additional parking. However, we are confident that we can significantly increase employment numbers with greater cooperation from Sheffield City Council and any assistance in that regard would be most welcome.

"It is difficult to recruit in Sheffield with the competing attractions of Leeds and Manchester so close by. The task is made doubly difficult by inaccurate and negative news stories.

"The very disappointing aspect of the editorial was that it suggested that Insight had made overblown promises to secure public grants and then failed to deliver.

"The truth is that Insight has established a great working relationship with Yorkshire Forward and the Department of Trade and Industry. The grants we signed up to accurately corresponded with Insight's growth plans. Funding received to-date bears no resemblance to the wild figures quoted in the Star. In fact, what we have received has been fully and independently audited and wholly in-line with Insight's capital investments and jobs created. Our total investment in Sheffield presently exceeds £31m."

Speaking on behalf of Sheffield Council, Executive Director for Development, Environment and Leisure, John Mothersole, said: "We welcomed Insight when they came to the city and we are delighted by their presence in Sheffield. We are also very encouraged by their optimism for future job growth.

"Any suggestion that we are disappointed with Insight is not true. It would have been tremendous if the jobs target could have been achieved by now, but they are a leading edge company trading in ever changing circumstances. We fully accept that the best-laid plans will need to be continually updated. We continue to work closely with Insight on that goal."

In March 2001, then Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers, announced that more than 1,700 new jobs would be created in Sheffield by June 2007 with the support of a £83.5 million package of investment.

The investment package was made up of £67 million capital investment by the US company, £15 million Regional Selective Assistance from the DTI and £1.5 million from Yorkshire Forward, the Regional Development Agency.

As well as creating new jobs, the money was also to be spent on the building of a new European headquarters in the city for Insight.

At the time Mr Byers described the investment as a "major jobs boost, not just for Sheffield but for the whole country". ®