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Fund provides routes into digital for under-represented groups in Manchester and Lancashire

£3m fund is being used to help businesses and residents gain digital skills

A £3m fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership will be used to fund projects aimed at getting under-represented groups into digital.

The fund, part of the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, will go to 14 projects that are aimed at helping more than 600 residents in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area to create accessible routes into digital roles.

The fund is aimed specifically at helping under-represented or disadvantaged groups into tech roles by helping the development of projects to support businesses and residents plug local skills gaps in creative, digital and tech roles.

Digital minister Caroline Dinenage said: “We are investing heavily to boost people’s digital skills, which are more important than ever in these times. We want everyone to be able to seize the opportunities that our world-class digital sectors bring. It is fantastic to see this new funding targeting innovative schemes that will make a real difference to people’s lives in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.”

The UK suffers from a technology skills gap, with not enough skilled workers available to fill organisations’ digital needs, a problem that many people think will be exacerbated by Brexit.

In an effort to address skills gaps in the Manchester area, six projects have already received funding in the first round of the initiative, supporting more than 200 Greater Manchester residents to find a digital, tech or creative career.

One project, called Tech Returners, was given round one funding for a programme called Your Journey into Tech, which helped people enter or return to the tech industry after a career break.

The 14 new projects chosen to receive help from the fund are:

  • Tech Equity, a project from Tech Manchester, TAP, Heroworx, Malleable Mind, UKFast and M427 which involves developing a “work readiness” course, working alongside employer partners, for unemployed women, with an emphasis on helping women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
  • DEEPer (Digital Engineering Education Programme), a project from Enterprise 4 All, Community & Business Partners CIC and Magma Digital, will train BAME women, unemployed people and people returning or switching to a tech career to be PHP developers to meet skills requirements in Lancashire.
  • The Dev-Ops Training Academy, a project from DXC Technology and the Open University, a 20-week part-time course to help women returning or switching to a tech career develop skills as entry level DevOps engineers, software engineers, support engineers and cloud administrators.
  • Cyber Ready North West, a project by CompTIA and Novacoast, to give people the skills needed for entry-level cyber roles.
  • Cyber Ready, a project from Raytheon Professional Services alongside employer partners, Morson Projects, Salford Council, Bupa, Talk Talk and Sodexo, to offer full- and part-time courses to provide personal and professional cyber-security skills.
  • All Digital, a project from Reform Radio and All Studios to provide a 10-week programme helping unemployed young adults find careers in content creation and digital marketing.
  • Project Uplift, a project from Burnley College to help older manual workers develop the skills to transition into digital programming roles in the manufacturing sector.
  • Digital Data Specialists Academy, a project from Salford University, Salford Council and Bupa to train 30 digital data specialists.
  • Power Up, a project from West Lancashire College, Extraordinary Club, Innox Trading and Matrix Nutrition to help graduates aged between 21 and 34 to develop digital marketing skills for roles such as digital marketer, web copywriter and social media marketer.
  • 0 Talent Academy, a project that will provide science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates with data science, cyber security and cloud-based computing skills for roles such as digital graduate engineer, data engineer, graduate data scientist, systems engineer, data analyst, IoT (internet of things) engineer in the manufacturing sector.
  • The Stockport Digital Academy, a project from Stockport Council, MadLab and Stockport College to provide a 12-week programme to give people skills needed for roles as software developers.
  • Short Form Content Creation Transition Course, a project from Sharp Futures and ITV to offer an online training course to provide low-paid or unemployed residents with skills for content creation roles. The course will focus on people with disabilities, freelancers or people who work in retail/hospitality who might need new skills for extra work.
  • Additive and Digital Manufacturing, a project from Made Smarter, Manchester Metropolitan University and Fabricon Design to provide a 12-day course for employees in the manufacturing sector to help them progress into better-paid roles.
  • Tech Lancaster, a project from Milliamp Technologies to help people gain the skills needed for roles such as design engineer.

Despite about 40% of UK tech talent residing in the London bubble, other cities across the UK, such as Manchester, have thriving technology scenes which many are trying to develop.

The Fast Track Fund was developed to help people acquire the digital skills needed by employers, which are in high demand the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area.

Steve Fogg, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, highlighted the important role that digital skills will play across “all key sectors” in the region, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the coronavirus pandemic means the Fast Track Fund is “more important than ever”.

“In the current climate, this fund is more important than ever,” he said. “This pandemic has highlighted the real importance of digital skills and technology, and digital will be a vital element in how we ‘build back better’.

“In Greater Manchester, our ambition is to be recognised as a world-leading digital city region. This fund helps bridge the digital skills gaps across our city-region and build a diverse talent pool in Greater Manchester, to ensure local businesses have access to the highly skilled workers they need.”

Read more about digital skills

  • Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, employers need tech and digital talent more than ever. But how can organisations recruit and train the skills they need during a lockdown?
  • Digital sector must overcome its “image problem” to attract more people to learn new skills, says Lord Mayor at launch of digital skills project.

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