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North has 1.4 job vacancies for each digital worker

EY and Tech North issue suggestions and guidelines to help tackle eight specific problems in northern tech ecosystem

In the north of England, there are 1.4 job vacancies for every digital worker in the region, according to research.

A study by professional services provider EY and government-backed organisation Tech North found that 712,750 digital technology vacancies were advertised across the north over the past three years, but there are currently only 168,671 digital tech workers in the region.

Richard Gregory, director of Tech North, said: “This presents a big challenge. Digital tech roles are more likely to remain unfilled compared to other industries.”

To help close this gap, EY and Tech North have issued a list of suggestions and guidelines to help tackle eight specific problems in the northern tech ecosystem.

These include problems such as a lack of clarity on what a regional digital job strategy should address, a lack of knowledge about what skills are needed to fill the vacancies, and a lack of informed career guidance for young people.

The UK is currently suffering a lack of skilled technology workers – it is estimated that the UK’s digital economy will need about 2.3 million skilled workers by 2020.

This gap between the roles that need filling and the talent available to fill them exists across all parts of the UK, but in 2017 Tech City UK discovered that finding talented workers is an even bigger challenge in the north.

Tech City UK’s data showed that in the north, 58% of employers say finding the right talent is a challenge, compared with 53% in London and the southeast and 35% in Northern Ireland.

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One of the factors contributing to this gap is a miscommunication between education providers and industry, which makes it difficult to ensure graduates are leaving education with the right skills.

Teachers have admitted they feel ill-equipped to properly teach concepts such as coding, and many in the tech sector believe one of the problems with encouraging children into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) jobs is that there are so many different roles available, and teachers cannot explain them all in depth.

This can also contribute to the wider problems of negative stereotypes in the tech industry, with many people not considering tech roles to be fun or creative.

As well as launching a northern digital awareness campaign to break down some of the misconceptions about tech jobs, Tech North suggested some of these issues could be tackled by creating a digital skills network to connect employers with the right workers, and by developing a digital jobs portal so people in the region can see how many digital jobs are available and what expertise and skills they require.

Many digital roles in the north offer a higher salary than the median salary in the UK – for example, median salaries in digital technology in the north are 48% higher than overall salaries for the region.

But computer science graduates are suffering some of the highest levels of unemployment six months after leaving university, even though Tech North says digital technology roles are the most common job vacancies in the north.

Gregory said Tech North – which will soon be called Tech Nation – will do what it can to address some of the issues for digital employment in the region, but said the responsibility for success is up to “the industry as a whole”.

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