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How Manchester is meeting the £141bn challenge of attracting digital talent

8th July 2019

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Manchester content curator Simon Donohue speaks to industry experts attending a London Tech Week 2019 fringe event hosted by MIDAS

Manchester content curator Simon Donohue speaks to industry experts attending a London Tech Week 2019 fringe event hosted by MIDAS

The success of Manchester-based tech businesses in attracting and retaining talent was the focus of a London Tech Week 2019 fringe event hosted by MIDAS, Manchester’s inward investment agency.

The event – Attracting Tech Talent in an Era of Digital Transformation – took place at the London office of global tech consultancy firm Slalom, which this year opened a Manchester office.

Chairing the panel discussion, Tech UK assistant policy director Giles Derrington began by telling delegates that the digital skills gap could cost the UK economy as much as £141bn in GDP growth, with as many as 600,000 tech sector vacancies at any one time.

While Manchester faces the same challenges as other tech clusters across the UK, panellists were able to share advice and experiences demonstrating successes in attracting talent.

Other panellists were MIDAS Chief Executive Tim Newns; Jane Garnsey, People Operations Director at TalkTalk; Paul Squire, Managing Director for Slalom in Manchester; and James Gray, Managing Director for Cyber and Intelligence at Raytheon, Manchester.

Recent success stories for Manchester included new bases for GCHQ and Jaguar Land Rover, the impressive growth of an entirely new division for Raytheon, and the decision by TalkTalk to relocate its entire workforce to a new campus in Salford.

Tim Newns said access to talent is now the number one factor for people looking to start, expand or relocate a tech business. He said it has been important for MIDAS to work with the city to ensure that Manchester is an attractive place for indigenous tech workers and those who might consider relocating.

“The priority is about focus on creating right environment for people wanting to be in Manchester,” he added.

James Gray explained how Raytheon’s base in Manchester only launched five years ago but already employs 500 people directly, supporting a further 450 jobs through partnerships and supply chain. “That growth has depended on attracting people to the sector, the challenge has probably grown.” he said, adding that “100 per cent year-on-year growth had slowed in the last year due to access to talent.”

He said attracting a diverse workforce, and operating in diverse locations, had helped.

Paul Squire explained that Slalom had opened its Manchester office in March, with three employees so far and plans to employ 15 people by the end of 2019.

He said: “When we look at market we look at three things:  supply of talent – we want to find people in the local area; demand is also really important to us – seeing companies moving from London to Manchester was a factor for us; the third piece is the eco-system, with large alliance partners around the world, we ask how we can take our capabilities, with their capabilities, to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Our time in Manchester has been really exciting for us.”

Jane Garnsey spoke about TalkTalk’s decision to close its London offices last year and how that has led to the recruitment of 500 tech staff at its Salford campus. She said the company was taking a long-term view to attracting talent by helping local schools to develop relevant curriculums.

Issues faced by TalkTalk include competition for talent with other major tech employers in the city-region, including Autotrader, Barclays and Booking.com.

Gray agreed that working with education establishments was important in nurturing the future talent that the tech sector will need to continue growing. Raytheon also works with local schools, take children aged 12 through cyber exercises. The company also works with universities to attract university students to discover more about the sector and helps people considering a change of career through initiatives including the Women in Cyber Academy, which is backed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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