The UK’s technology industry is big business. It’s worth has now exceeded £161 billion to the economy, and is the source of over 1.5 million jobs. Success, however, comes at a price in the form of the technology skills gap – a hurdle which Manchester is working hard to overcome.
Preparing for Future Success
As successive governments have thrown their support behind the UK’s burgeoning tech empire, a lingering problem has continued to grow behind the scenes. With the expansion of any industry, it’s reasonable to expect a sharp increase in the number of employees needed and a new job roles emerging. Tech is no exception. In fact, the fast-paced nature of the tech world exacerbates this. Fulfilling those jobs – and the skills they will require – is an exceptional challenge.
The speed at which the industry is developing, as well as the advancement of technology, has left the industry finding it increasingly more difficult to fill the 750,000 new digital jobs expected to be introduced by 2020. With current uncertainty around Brexit’s limitations on drafting in employees from the EU also causing concern.
What results is a fight to secure the industry’s future by developing skills now.
Leading the Way
As Britain’s unofficial ‘tech hub’, Manchester is striving to lead the way in proactively plugging the skills gap. Home to Manchester Digital, and regular host to Tech North events, Manchester is swimming in digital talent, and has found considerable support among its business community and beyond.
However, supportive organisations and big events alone will not resolve the skills gap, and members of Manchester’s tech industry understand that. What follows is just a few ways that Manchester is attempting to close the skills gap in the technology sector.
Mayor Andy Burnham has thrown his full support behind the region’s ambitions to become the biggest digital city in the UK. It was at GMDigital that Burnham made his most supportive pledge yet: to create a £2m digital skills fund and increase overall investment into the industry across Greater Manchester.
This investment will pave the way for organisations and individuals across the region to strengthen their skills, increase opportunities, and create a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.
Part of the skills fund could potentially be invested in apprenticeship schemes – an area which the industry is already growing dependent.
It makes sense to target the young people who will be spearheading the industry in years to come, and help them develop their career and skills in an authentic environment. Not only does the apprentice benefit individually, but the organisation acquires another pair of hands to help with the workload, as well as a fresh pair of eyes ready to be developed.
This is another area where Mayor Andy Burnham has thrown his support, promising to raise apprenticeship wages from £3.50 an hour. As he mentioned whilst campaigning, the amount simply isn’t enough for apprentices to support themselves. By introducing a raise to Greater Manchester’s apprenticeship wage, Burnham will be helping businesses attract more apprentices, whilst making the career choice a more viable option for our young people.
This balance of work and study with our partners at MMU allows apprentices the opportunity to experience an active and dynamic work environment, whilst getting ahead of the curve in terms of skills. Not to mention a chance to meet and work with industry professionals who can open career doors for them in the future. All of our previous in-house apprentices have gone on to have successful and well paid careers as developers, both at Kaleida and at other software houses.
Coding in Schools
The government is encouraging children to learn to code. If you’re the parent of a primary school child in England and Wales, you might be aware that coding is now on the curriculum. What do we mean by coding? In short, it’s how to write a set of instructions that a computer can understand and then action. The idea is that by teaching children these problem-solving skills, they will become the creators of problem-solving technology in the future. CBeebies invites Dr Andrew Manches of the University of Edinburgh to explain why coding is important and what parents can do to help their children learn. Teaching coding is not a clever way to breed a generation of developers, it helps children learn a range of useful skills that they will need in all aspects of modern life. So, although not a direct response to the skills gap, it will surely help future generations be more prepared for the modern workplace.
Closing the Gap Together
If we’ve learnt anything from UKFast’s involvement with Code Club and the hard work of Tech North, Manchester Digital, and many others, it’s that Manchester’s success in tackling the skills gap relies heavily on coming together as a community and offering opportunities to develop tech skills.
With Manchester providing headstrong initiative in closing the skills gap and benefiting from the support of Andy Burnham, as 2020 approaches Manchester will remain an attractive prospect for digital careers. In the meantime, we need to continue to shine a spotlight on the issue nationwide, for the sake of the industry’s future.
As a bespoke software house based in Manchester, Kaleida understands the importance of building and developing skills to meet future needs. We have a range of opportunities available currently. To find out more, head to our careers section or get in touch.