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Tech Cities:the hottest digital real estate for tech talent


As the tech hotspots in the UK continue to expand, what does this mean for enterprises recruiting next-generation workforces?


The UK has one of the most vibrant technology sectors in the developed world. According to research carried out by Oxford Economics, London’s burgeoning technology sector will deliver more than 46,000 jobs and contribute £12 billion to the economy over the next decade.

Even more astonishing are the findings from South Mountain Economics and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which conclude that the capital now has more people working in technology-related companies than California. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said: “Ten years ago, no one thought of New York or London as a competitor to Silicon Valley – but today, more and more tech companies are looking to our cities as places to launch and grow, because they offer such diversity, creative talent and high quality of life.”

As recruiters, we have seen hubs for technology talent, such as London’s Tech City, sprout across the UK. Aberdeen’s oil and gas expertise has produced a connected technology hub, as have silicon chips in Cambridge and the Bath-Bristol corridor, while Formula 1 has its stronghold in the Midlands and videogames maintains a number of small clusters in Scotland, notably in Edinburgh and Dundee.

Belinda Brooks, business lead for digital media at Hays, says: “in the second quarter of 2014, the fastest rise in IT vacancies was recorded in the Midlands. IT jobs there have increased by 20 per cent since the second quarter of 2013. They also increased by nine per cent in the North West between the first and second quarter of this year.”

Indeed, Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, the Government-backed organisation helping coordinate the area’s growth, told the London Evening Standard: “It’s not all about London. It’s important for London to be aware of what’s going on around the UK. There’s hardware in Cambridge, games in Sheffield, digital media in Newcastle.”

Tech for everyone

Recruitment into businesses that are clustered around the UK’s tech hotspots is critical to the long-term development of not only the tech sector, but also the UK’s economy as a whole. The Science Council estimates that the ICT workforce will grow by 39 per cent by 2030, with another report from O2 stating the UK will need an additional 750,000 workers with digital skills by 2017.

And the significance of the roles can’t be overstated. Brooks adds that a recent analysis of the digital workforce reported over half of all workers in IT to be employed in ‘Professional’ level occupations requiring ‘higher level and specialist skills’ and earning salaries above the UK average.

The European Commission has found a worrying 42 per cent of UK employers reported difficulties recruiting skilled IT workers – above the EU average – and predicts that there will be 900,000 unfilled technical vacancies in Europe by 2015, with the number of digital and technology jobs growing at a rate of more than 100,000 a year.

Education clearly has a role to play in supporting the recruitment needs of the tech hotspots across the country. The UK Digital Skills Taskforce, Code Club, Coderdojo and Codecademy are all evolving technical education and helping create a pipeline of digital skills, although much of the focus remains on London.

In many cases, the digital skills needed by the next generation of technology have been developed within the hubs and companies developing that technology. Vocational initiatives like the Tech City Apprenticeship offer employers in the tech sector a channel they can use to locate the skills and talent their businesses need, for example.

The challenge of accessing in-demand skills becomes harder once roles become specialised, from the development of web-based services to mobile digital technologies, wearable tech, and the Internet of Things. Brooks says current hard-to-fill vacancies are concentrated in higher level digital media: “Director-level and above, encompassing Social Media, Search Engine Optimisation, Digital Advertising, R&D, CRM, Cloud Reporting, Web Analytics, UX delivery, UI delivery and Mobile Technologies.”

Such is the pace of growth, both in the technology sector and the technology used by businesses in every field, that continual education will need to be paired with continual recruitment, if only to keep up with the pace of change.

“Although a business has a requirement, they may not be entirely sure what they are looking for,” says Brooks. “The most successful recruitment is performed when a recruiter with a strong, broad digital awareness and the ability to draw out vital information to fill a role successfully can advise, understand and meet the actual requirement.”

Taking the technology booms of the past as our examples, from videogames in the 80s to the Internet in the 90s, that’s something no business can afford to miss out on.

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