Contracting in Reading and Guildford

As key locations on what is known as the ‘M4 Corridor’ these two towns are home to some of the UK’s largest and best known employers – for example Microsoft. They don’t come much bigger than that! However, there is also much more to the area, and anyone thinking of relocating here for work will find plenty of other good reasons to make one of these places feel like home.

Reading is described by local website Living Reading as ‘energetic, surprising, inclusive and ambitious’ - a place where quality of life is more than just a soundbite. And it’s not hard to see why. Coming to the town today is likely to be a major eye-opener for most visitors. Reading is still very recognisable as Reading – only new and improved in all the right places. A university town that is home to some of the biggest businesses in the world, and a leading shopping destination with mile upon mile of unspoilt Thames river frontage. It is most definitely not the soulless commuter town or anonymous modern eyesore that many people imagine.

With a diverse, well educated and creative population, Reading is one of the most interesting and dynamic towns in the South East, surrounded by unspoilt countryside and magnificent stretches of the river Thames. But Reading is surprising in so many other ways as well. Michelin Star restaurants, over eight hundred listed buildings and monuments, boutique hotels, family -friendly museums, two National Trails and two beautiful rivers on its doorstep. It’s also within very easy reach of London, with excellent transport links.

Guildford is probably better known for being an attractive town in which to live and work – and this is undeniably true. It is the county town of Surrey and is unfortunately one of the most expensive places to live in the South East, outside of London - but there are many upsides! It’s a bustling and very ‘English’ town, with a cobbled High Streets, numerous shops, department stores, and markets. It was once voted the 9th best place to live in Britain According to Channel Four’s ‘The Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK’ and was the ‘most attractive and safe shopping destination in the UK’ according to the Eve Prime Retail Survey.

Major companies
Thanks to Reading’s superb location, it’s hardly surprising that some of the world’s most famous companies have chosen to set up there - Microsoft, Oracle Corporation, BG Group, Verizon Business and Symantec to name just a few - whilst Guildford is home to Cornhill Insurance and telecommunications giants Ericsson and Avaya.

Microsoft
A company which hardly needs introduction! This major head office at Thames valley Park has four large buildings across the ‘campus’ and is home to many of the company’s 93,000-odd employees. Main functions from this site include service, support, sales and marketing for customers and partners across the UK. 

Oracle Corporation
Oracle provides ‘the world’s most complete, open, and integrated business software and hardware systems’. Its head office is also at Thames Valley Park and the company has more than 370,000 customers, including all of the Fortune 100, representing a variety of sizes and industries in more than 145 countries around the globe. Oracle's business is information - how to manage it, use it, share it, protect it. For nearly three decades it has provided the software and services that let organisations get the most up-to-date and accurate information from their business systems. Working at Oracle means working on innovative, leading technological developments. To find out more simply Google: Jobs@Oracle.

BG Group
Also located at Thames Valley Park, BG Group is a rapidly-growing global energy business and a world leader in natural gas - which describes itself as being ‘a quick-thinking, confident and dynamic business’. The BG team is made up of over 6,000 talented people representing more than 65 different nationalities, with skills and expertise in areas ranging from project management and shipping to procurement and reservoir engineering. Together, these people are driving some of the most exciting projects happening in the energy industry today and, as such, the organisation has career opportunities right across the gas supply chain.

Verizon Business
Verizon is a leading global provider of IT, communications, security and network solutions to enterprises and governments around the world. It owns and operates one of the most expansive IP backbone networks in the world, which is large enough to circle the world 18 times!
The company has nearly $108 billion in annual revenue and serves 98 percent of the Fortune 500. Located at Reading International Business Park, Verizon Business has over 500 employees and a turnover of more than £500m in the UK.

Symantec
Symantec was founded in 1982 by visionary computer scientists and has evolved to become one of the world’s largest software companies with more than 17,500 employees in more than 40 countries. It provides security, storage and systems management solutions to help its customers to ‘secure and manage their information-driven world against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently than any other company’. It’s UK head office is located at Green Park in Reading where many different opportunities exist, from technical and engineering right through to marketing and other consulting services.

Cornhill Insurance
Cornhill Direct is part of Allianz Insurance plc, one of the largest general insurers in the UK, and is based in Ladymead in Guildford. It is a well-established and experienced UK insurance brand that offers customers a wide range of products including home, motor, life and a comprehensive portfolio of commercial insurance solutions. It has grown steadily through innovation and acquisition since 1905, making it one of the UK's largest and best known insurers.

Ericsson
Located in Guildford Business Park, Ericsson UK is part of one of the world’s oldest telecom companies – with its Swedish origins dating back to the formation of the L.M. Ericsson Group in 1876. The global company now employs some 82,000 people in 175 countries and holds more than 25,000 technology patents, with more than 40% of the world’s mobile traffic passing through its networks.

Ericsson has been present in the UK since 1928 when it was responsible for the production of exchanges for the Post Office. Some years later in 1957 it expanded into Ireland when the first Ericsson exchange was installed in Limerick. Ericsson is shaping the future of Mobile and Broadband communications through its continuous technology leadership. Providing innovative solutions in more than 140 countries, Ericsson is helping to create the most powerful communication companies in the world.

Avaya
Based within purpose-built premises on Cathedral Hill, Avaya UK was formed out of Lucent Technologies in 2000 and has gone on to become a global leader in enterprise communications systems. The company provides unified communications, contact centres, and related services directly and through its channel partners to leading businesses and organisations around the world. Enterprises of all sizes depend on Avaya for state-of-the-art communications that improve efficiency, collaboration, customer service and competitiveness.

Major industries

  • IT
  • Telecoms
  • Insurance
  • Energy

Local newspapers
In Reading, the most popular local papers are the Reading Post and the Reading Chronicle, and there is also the Reading Eagle. The supporting website for the Reading Post is www.getreading.co.uk and for the Chronicle, www.readingchronicle.co.uk. Guildford does not have a dedicated local paper but is instead covered by titles such as the Woking News and Mail and the Esher News and Mail.

Typical rates of pay
Typical rates of pay for contractors will of course vary depending on any individual’s skill-set, but as a guide, an IT Project Manager in the region could expect to earn around £400 per day, whilst a less specialist contractor might expect to command a daily rate of around £300 to £350. Having said that, with so many IT-related businesses in this area, the rates could be higher than elsewhere in the South East, simply due to the selective requirements of these specialist local employers. For typical rates of pay in the South West, across a variety of skill sets, visit our contractor rates of pay page.

Ones to watch
There are a number of key construction projects taking places in the area which will provide many contracting opportunities. These include:

Reading Station
A funding package of £800m has been confirmed to upgrade the station, track and signalling and introduce a multi-modal interchange. Major elements of the scheme, to be undertaken in phases and completed by 2015, include five new platforms, new track, a vertical separation of freight and passenger services and a new bridge at Scours Lane. In addition, Sir John Madejski’s Sackville Developments is working up a new planning application for a 1.4m sq ft mixed use scheme opposite Reading Station, which now incorporates the defunct Friar's Walk shopping centre. The proposal provides for 800,000 sq ft of offices, 100,000 sq ft of retail, 650 flats and a cultural quarter including theatre, arts and gallery space. The scheme includes a 32-storey residential tower, a 24-storey office block and 880 parking spaces.

Winnersh Triangle - Reading
SEGRO has recently announced plans to re-develop more then 80-acres at Winnersh Triangle over a period of several years. Phase One will provide 328,000 sq ft offices, a 174 bedroom Holiday Inn, shops and leisure facilities and is due to be complete by 2011. Office and hotel pre-lets have been agreed and the total redevelopment potential is around 2m sq ft.

Southside and Kennet Island - Reading
The 100 acre site at Southside straddles the A33 close to GreenPark and Madejski Stadium. This will become a new residential and commercial gateway to Reading from Junction 11, with adjacent developments providing up to 880,000 sq ft offices, 1,150 residential units (initial phases completed and units sold), and community facilities including local shops. A private hospital on a 2.3-acre plot is also planned for the site.

The Slyfield Area Regeneration project – Guildford
The Slyfield Area Regeneration Project (SARP) is part of the current Guildford Development Framework (GDF) preparation process and the area is identified as a strategic development site. It forms a significant opportunity for brownfield regeneration in the borough and will make a substantial contribution to long-term future planning aspirations. The development will include a new Sewage Treatment Works, new waste management facilities, a new depot for Guildford Borough Council, further land for other private sector waste needs, employment land, a substantial number of new residential units, and improved community, recreation and other local facilities.

Town Centre Action Plan - Guildford
This is an extensive project which will allocate land for development and provide planning allocation and policies to guide and promote change in the Town Centre until 2026. Specific projects are not known at this time but there will undoubtedly be numerous opportunities for contractors as this plan develops.

Things to consider about contracting in Reading and Guildford:

Pros 

  • Excellent range of major businesses in the area.
  • Both towns are vibrant, developing places to live and work.
  • Guildford is seen as the quintessential English town.
  • Reading is expanding rapidly and has an excellent range of facilities.
  • Both are in easy reach of London.

Cons

  • Both towns, and especially Reading, do have a perception as being part of the ‘urban jungle’ that surrounds the M4/M25 region.
  • Very high cost of living, especially in Guildford.
  • Reading is still seen by some as the ‘soulless commuter town’.
  • As commuter towns, some people feel they are losing their own identity.

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