Economic Development Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Economic development officers (EDOs) work to improve the economy of their local area or region. Working within their communities, usually for a local authority, they work to retain and increase the number of jobs in the area, help unemployed people back into work and attract new businesses.

Economic development officers may:

  • Develop local economic development strategies and an action plan to implement them.
  • Set up projects to support local business growth, create new jobs and improve local skills.
  • Conduct research.
  • Build partnerships between local government, businesses and communities.
  • Arrange training for local businesses and unemployed people.
  • Advise businesses and community groups about available grants and funding.
  • Put together bids for external funding and help companies to apply for funding from national and European Union (EU) sources.
  • Promote their local area to attract new businesses.
  • Promote tourism in the area.
  • Help local businesses to become more competitive in finding new markets.
  • Organise local business and jobs fairs.
  • Give talks and presentations.
  • Advise councilors in discussions on local economic problems.
  • Keep records of local companies.
  • Help to promote investment in the local region.
  • Support businesses in accessing international markets.

The work involves managing budgets. EDOs may also help local businesses to develop the skills of their managers and workforce. They may assist in re-locating and re-training where employees are made redundant or where businesses cease to operate.

In areas where tourism is important to the economy, EDOs work with tourism officers to obtain funding to develop and market local attractions. They may be involved in providing training for local leisure and tourism employees.

EDOs work closely in partnership with other organisations. They may include the Government Office for the region, local authorities, regional development agencies, the Chambers of Commerce, Business Link and Jobcentre Plus.

EDOs usually work as part of a larger team within an authority, supporting the development of many initiatives. In a larger authority they may specialise in areas such as inward investment, European funding or business development and advice. In a smaller authority, they may cover all aspects of the economy, including such areas as tourism, culture and arts, and rural development.

EDOs in local authorities usually work normal office hours Monday to Friday for around 37 hours a week. They may need to work during some evenings and weekends when workloads are heavy and for events such as job fairs or public meetings. EDOs working as consultants have more variable working hours, particularly if traveling around the country. Part-time work, flextime and job sharing are possible.

EDOs are office based but spend time traveling to and attending meetings with local business representatives and partner organisations. This may be local or throughout the UK. A driving licence may be required for some jobs.

A newly-qualified EDO may earn between £21,000 and £27,000 a year. Experienced EDOs may earn up to £35,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Local authorities employ the majority of EDOs in England, with opportunities in county, district, metropolitan district and city councils and in London boroughs. Other employers include regional development agencies, sub-regional partnerships and private consultancy firms.

The number of EDOs employed by individual authorities varies according to the size of the authority and its needs. Some authorities employ just one EDO, while economically depressed areas and those undergoing regeneration normally employ a team of EDOs. Increasingly, partnerships have been established between businesses or charities and local authorities to cover the economic development needs of an area.

Job vacancies may be advertised in local and national newspapers and in publications such as Local Government Chronicle, The MJ, New Start, and Regeneration and Renewal. They may also be advertised on www.lgjobs.com (the official recruitment website for local government) and on the website's of local authorities and recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for this work. Most employers, though, ask for a degree in a relevant subject or a relevant professional qualification. Relevant degree subjects include economics, planning, business studies, geography and estates management. Entry to degree courses is with at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C). Subject and grade requirements vary between institutions and courses. Other qualifications may be accepted for entry to degree courses, either on their own or in combination with A levels.

Employers tend to prefer candidates with experience in project or programme management. It can be an advantage to have experience of town planning, community development, marketing, business advice or regeneration. Some employers prefer applicants who have had experience of putting together bids for funding.

It may be possible to begin as an administrator or clerk in an economic development section and, with experience, progress to work as an EDO. For this route, some GCSE's (A*-C) are usually needed.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

EDOs are usually trained on the job by experienced colleagues. Some may attend short courses run by the Institute of Economic Development (IED) or by local colleges.

Many EDOs study for a postgraduate qualification. The IED offers a postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters degree in Local and Regional Economic Development in collaboration with the universities of Coventry, Dundee and Sheffield Hallam. Entry is with a first degree in an appropriate subject and employment (or the active seeking of employment) in the economic development field. Study is through distance learning.

Several other universities offer part-time or distance-learning postgraduate courses in regeneration, urban renewal, economic development or community work.

Some EDOs may be encouraged by their employers to work towards NVQ's in areas such as business and management.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is important for EDOs. The IED requires its Full and Associate Members to undertake at least 25 hours of CPD each year. CPD activities can include training courses and seminars, study for qualifications, research projects, attendance at IED branch meetings and structured reading.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An economic development officer should:

  • Be highly motivated, with vision and enthusiasm.
  • Have excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Have organisational skills to take on a wide range of issues and tasks at the same time.
  • Have marketing skills, to be able to influence a broad spectrum of people.
  • Be confident in taking charge of budgets and measuring performance against targets.
  • Have strong networking skills and the ability to build relationships with partner organisations.
  • Have good analytical skills, to gather opinions and advice from many different sources.
  • Be able to work to challenging deadlines, often under pressure.
  • Be computer literate and confident using project mapping and spreadsheet packages.
  • Be able to work with a wide range of people and work well in a team.
  • Have excellent project management skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Progression for EDOs can be to senior or principal officer. EDOs usually move between authorities to gain more experience and achieve promotion or move into specialist areas. Opportunities within individual authorities depend on the size of the authority and the number of economic development staff it employs.

Some experienced EDOs offer a consultancy service on a freelance basis.

A few may find work abroad through an overseas development agency or within the EU.

Get Further Information

Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA),
Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5LG
Tel: 020 7296 6880
Website: www.lgjobs.com

The Institute of Economic Development (IED),
PO Box 796, Northampton NN4 9TS
Tel: 01604 874613
Website: www.ied.co.uk

Local Government Association,
Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street,
London EC1M 5LG
Tel: 020 7664 3000
Website: www.local.gov.uk

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