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Manchester, The Digital Skills Gap and Me

Over the last year, Manchester has been rated the fifth largest digital tech cluster in the UK.

It’s said that it has the largest accumulation of tech jobs outside of London, with almost 8,000 digital businesses, which employ over 80,000 people. GP Bullhound have noted that 28% of the 50 fastest growing tech companies north of London now call Manchester home, this includes globally recognised names such as Amazon, the BBC and ITV. Whilst initiatives such as the Manchester Science Partnership have become home to more than 170 companies within the life-science, health-tech, biotech, ICT, digital and creative sectors and are actively working to support and promote our tech ecosystem. Over the past year the city has made it into the top 20 within the European Digital City Index for starting and scaling digital tech businesses, which with Google and GCHQ making the move up north, it’s no wonder that Manchester is continuing to strive to become a leading, worldwide tech centre.

However, due to a lack of training and education alongside mass scale technology and digital growth, a problem has occurred. Welcome ‘The Digital Skills Gap’ (DSG). It is said that the current ‘tech of the future’, Artificial Intelligence for example, will be known as everyday tech as soon as 2020, whilst 45% of current jobs could be replaced by automated modern demonstrated technologies within the same time frame. This will require a concentrated effort for recruiters to hire specialist ‘tech savvy’ individuals for the jobs that the tech can’t do (just yet). Employees will have to focus on training and personal development opportunities for any shot at improving their chances of attaining roles within the positions of the future. Ultimately, it sounds relatively straight forward; know your stuff, stay at the top of your game and you’ll get where you want to be. Sadly, this isn’t the case, the DSG is growing as we speak, mid to high level jobs are becoming increasingly harder for young people to enter because education is slow, and it doesn’t equip candidates with the relevant practical skills to fulfil the role and training isn’t always suited to the needs of the individual. Something must be changed or the DSG will continue to grow and these statistics will become more shocking than they already are…

  • 7 out of 10 roles require digital skills

  • 1 out of 3 people don’t have any of these required skills

  • 9% of jobs are at risk of becoming automated (this is increasing by the minute)

  • 1 out of 4 jobs are dramatically changing to encourage productivity and growth due to automation taking the opportunities.

  • 4 out of 10 companies can’t find people with the right skills to fill the roles on offer.

  • People with no skills earn over 8% less than those who do

I recently attended a number of events which highlighted the effects of the DSG and what Manchester is doing to improve the availability and accessibility of employment for young people.

First on my list was Manchester Digital’s ‘Digital Revolution Conference’ (DRC) where I attended on behalf of team Apadmi. Nestled in the heart of the city’s tech scene at the Manchester Technology Centre, the event considered the global trends and changes that will impact our region’s digital and tech landscape in years to come. With a guest speaker from GCHQ, expert knowledge from a variance of speakers on the Manchester Digital Panel and insights from Carl Miller, writer of ‘The Tech-lash’; we were welcomed by Managing Director Katie Gallagher who lead the day and highlighted future development plans and strategies on how Manchester can become one of the UK’s leading tech cities.

The Manchester Digital board discussed the city’s Digital Vision and their strategy to encourage the development of talent and skills. They recognised the DSG using the statistic that 27% of Manchester businesses aren’t hiring applicants due to a lack of skills. They want to reduce this to 5% by 2020 by encouraging entry level talent to enter roles as opposed to retaining talent and adapting existing roles to suit the ever-changing requirements. Initiatives such as The Juice Academy, Manchester Science Partnerships and the newly launched Native Creative event at UK Fast will be benefactors of this growth.

Manchester Digital also utilised the event to launch their new ‘DigitalHer’ campaign. The initiative focuses on inspiring and empowering the young female minds of our digital future. The team will be going on tour across greater Manchester within 10 local authorities from February 2019, along with their sponsors GCHQ, Autotrader and BJSS who will help to promote female roles within the digital field.

Later in the month I went to the MPA Native Creative event. The event evolved around the future minds of digital and highlighting the alternative routes to a career within this field aside from university. Apadmi got involved within the digital sector area with fellow companies Seventy7, Pixel Kicks, The E Word and UK Fast. Together we highlighted the vast opportunities within digital from App Development, Web Design, Graphic Design, Marketing, Sales and Business, to name a few along with the prospects a career in digital can offer. I personally found it rewarding to share how I got to where I am now by persevering and not giving up until I got what I wanted. It’s nice to think that if I convinced just one person within our talks that this route could be for them, I would be satisfied.

Looking back on my first month within a Digital Marketing Apprenticeship and considering the opportunities, experience and education I have had so far, I feel extremely fortunate to be actively involved in developing Manchester’s digital ecosystem for the better. I hope I can look back at this blog one day and reconsider the DSG as a thing of the past and look at Manchester as one of the UK’s leading tech cities.

Until then, bye for now.

Twitter: @LauraLightfoot8

Instagram: @laurajsloves

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