Digital skills are essential for the country’s productivity and economic growth. 82% of vacancies advertised in the UK require digital skills to some degree, according to recent research commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

But, employers surveyed indicated that around one third of the roles that they found difficult to fill were in some way due to applicants not having the necessary digital knowhow.

Added to that is the fact that a staggering 1.7 million new roles will be created within the tech and digital sectors in the UK within the next decade – and the country is going to need the very best talent to fill them.

In Greater Manchester, it’s great to see the steps that are being taken by partners across the city-region to keep pace with nurturing young local talent and supporting digital career pathways.

As part of GM Digital Skills Day (7 February), we’re proud to celebrate this activity and explore the ways in which we can all do our bit to help to address the digital skills shortage and meet the demands of the future.

There’s no doubt that apprenticeships will play a key part in producing the next generation of digital talent. As we unlock interest and switch young people on to a career in digital, an apprenticeship can be that important next step on their career pathway – and a natural transition from activities such as Go Digital and Digital Futures for school-leavers.

Apprenticeships can also play an important part in addressing digital skills shortages now, as there is much to be gained from looking at how people can be upskilled within the workplace and have the right skills to cope with the changes that are being felt as a result of this technological change.

The Greater Manchester Levy Matchmaking Service has been introduced to bridge the growing skills divide by enabling smaller businesses to access an apprentice at a reduced cost. The service matches smaller businesses to a donor organisation, so they obtain funding for their apprenticeship training. 

Being more digitally inclusive is another route through which we can develop talent. In July 2018, the Digital 1000 initiative was established to help Greater Manchester residents to do more digitally – both in a professional and personal capacity. This might be through supporting some of the hardest-to-reach individuals to access local government services online, or helping people to become IT literate and work-ready. So far, the initiative has helped over 1500 people and will continue to do so as we look at ways to further embed digital inclusion across all the services we deliver.  

I am proud of the work which is already being done to encourage the development of digital skills across Greater Manchester, and I look forward to driving the Growth Company’s work in supporting digital inclusion across the city-region and beyond.

Jon-Paul Rimington, Managing Director – GC Education & Skills