The ‘digital skills crisis’ is never far from the headlines in most digital economies across the world today. Companies in the UK say they need ‘talent’ more than anything else to help them grow – and they need it yesterday.
Likewise, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ concept continues to gather both positive media mentions and probing questions in near-equal measure. Regional groupings in the North now span the public and private sector, looking at everything from infrastructure to education within increasingly formalised structures. These groups are currently arming themselves with the information and supporters they need to cement the success of this political project.
At Tech North, one thing we wanted to understand was how we might solve our region’s skills challenges, in order to shore up the North’s future. Unlike a city like New York, which leads the world’s innovation measures because its political leadership is willing and able to act on this issue, the North has no one leader and is instead a patchwork of local governance with little or no control over education.
We know that digital jobs pay more, but from our work with the IPPR North on its Devo Digital skills report, we also know that all of the North’s regions have substantial digital skills gaps for those workers educated to undergraduate level or equivalent.
But our region kickstarted the industrial revolution, is the home of cooperative business, led the women’s suffrage movement and created the first computer – which makes a great basis for the North to lead on building a collaborative and diverse digital sector.
And with good salaries, great jobs, jump-for-joy house prices and awesome quality of life, our region has things that many other cities across the world simply cannot offer.
This Northern Digital Jobs Strategy has been created using research from Manchester’s Centre for Local Economic Strategies and the IPPR North think tank to create eight themes under which our efforts can be grouped.
These eight themes were then consulted on with the community at Tech North’s Digital Jobs Action Summit, supported by EY. The document explores a range of ideas for local, regional and national initiatives for action brought forward at the event. They include creating a regional digital skills network, building a regional digital jobs portal and launching a jobs campaign.
Tech North is set to launch a new platform that aims to provide the most accurate measure of the scale of the ‘digital skills gap’, by number, vacancy type and skill.
This will help policymakers, employers, parents, teachers and learners make decisions about how and where they invest their time or money.