As is suggested in a piece written by Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein: “Many organisations are finding out, the move to digital is now an accepted necessity for companies wanting to survive. Dozens of examples exist where companies who have ignored the innovator’s dilemma have had abrupt downfalls. Kodak, HMV, and Jessops are all examples of well-known brands which have failed.
“In the past few years, we have highlighted the issue of what we termed the ‘ticking digital talent time bomb.’ Modern marketing now requires a different and flexible skill set. In particular, we have seen a rise in demand for the data geek.”
But 57 per cent of digital businesses in the North have turned down thousands of pounds worth of work because they were unable to find the right talent. In fact, a Manchester Digital Skills Audit found that 29 per cent claimed that this surmounted to more than £50,000 worth of missed opportunities as they had to refuse job offers because of it.
There has, however, been an improvement. Finding a developer seems to have been a tricky job for Northern businesses, presenting the most difficult role to fill. But this has dropped from 61 per cent in 2014 to 50 per cent in 2015.
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Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, said: “The results of our digital skills audit highlight that we need some short term solutions to the skills shortage and a way of accelerating access to talent. It shows that there is still a need for industry and education to work much more closely together and for SMEs to have much more support in building and developing those relationships.
“A discussion which took place at the Digital Skills Summit, following the announcement of the audit results, covered the need for businesses to be far more assertive in their discussions with government to ensure that digital skills are included in the curriculum and that working with industry is not seen as a nice to do.
“In addition, delegates and speakers agreed that there is still a lot of work to do to promote and encourage women to consider careers in digital and technology. This needs to begin at school age and businesses should make sure that their environments are comfortable for women. However there was a general feeling among the panel that integration is the way forwards rather than creating female only networking environments.”
But on the one hand the UK government promotes a multitude of locations withinBritain as global cities, but a focus on home-grown talent misses the point and could ultimately diminish British firms’ competitiveness on the global market.
This was something that Adfonic CTO Wes Biggs picked up on.
“Government immigration policy isn’t helping increase the talent pool,” he said. “Measures such as the PSW Visa enabled international students to work for up to two years in the UK after graduation. Now non-European Union graduates must obtain an employer-sponsored work visa. Sometimes it takes months to complete the admin, a huge time and opportunity cost in the fast-moving Internet start-up market.
“But we mustn’t forget that while the government takes with one hand, it gives with the other. Tech City houses over 600 digital start-ups, up from around a dozen a few years ago. It boasts success stories such as Moshi Monsters UK, Last.FM, SoundCloud and TweetDeck, with new companies sprouting each week from a fertile mix of government and industry investment alongside a growing network of tech entrepreneurs.”
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