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Young people across Greater Manchester are discovering their digital future

March 2020

The digital and technology sector in Greater Manchester is thriving. This month, Tech Nation reported that Manchester is the fastest-growing tech city in Europe. Greater Manchester hosts a number of big names in the industry, such as PrettyLittleThing, Boohoo, GCHQ, AutoTrader and N Brown Group, alongside being the home of a number of vital SMEs, microbusinesses and freelancers.

So why have businesses been struggling to recruit?

So why have businesses been struggling to recruit? The core of this issue lies in Greater Manchester’s digital skills gap. In 2019, almost a third of digital businesses said that they had to turn work away as a result of not being able to find the right local talent to fulfil it. 20% of businesses had to offshore work as a result. 60% of businesses had to inflate salaries to compete for talent.

Digital Futures is a fully-funded school support programme, powered by Manchester Digital and backed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, that brings the region’s tech and digital sector together to bridge the skills gap. Digital Futures equips 13-18 year olds and their key influencers- (teachers, careers advisors and parents) with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their future in digital and technology.

Digital Futures’ Discover Digital Careers event series is part of this programme bringing together young people and industry leaders through a range of engaging hands-on activities. All experience opportunities are aligned to the Gatsby Benchmarks – the best practice for meaningful employer encounters – ensuring students have the opportunity to learn about what work is like, or what it takes to be successful in the workplace. Gatsby says that every pupil should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace.

Each event mobilises around eight different Digital Futures Ambassador organisations from across the tech and digital ecosystem to run various activities that will bring to life different skills and career paths. Businesses are supported in the development of their activity by Manchester Digital and guided by educational partners STEM Learning to ensure that each activity station is educationally robust and fit for purpose. That means it is up to the business what it is they want to bring to life – whether they want to shine a light on programming, marketing, user experience or core employability skills. Alongside bringing to life all of the corners of the industry, these events help students to understand the numerous study options that can lead to a career in digital with dedicated activities to inform about pathways, apprenticeships and further education.

By the end of each event, students will be able to understand the different job roles and opportunities in digital and technology. They will know what skills employers are looking for and have made those early connections with employers that we hope will help to keep them in the local talent pool.

So far, we’ve reached over 500 young people in Greater Manchester. By the end of 2020, we’ll have doubled this and worked with over 1000 students from 150 schools. 100% of the educators who have attended the events have said the event was beneficial for the students and that it helped to support their achievement of the Gatsby benchmarks.

After attending a recent event, a Year 9 from Trinity High School in Manchester said: “I thought computer science was all about programming and information about the computer, but now I know technology can lead to many more careers.”

A learning mentor accompanying a group of Year 10 students said “one of my students is self-taught in using C++ and we weren’t sure where we should go for an apprenticeship route. This session has really helped us to think where he could apply.”


Can you or your business help us to inspire the next generation of technologists? The commitment can be as little as one hour, recording a short video about your career path, to a full day at one of our Discover Digital Careers events. If you are interested, please contact Natasha Kitchen, Talent & Skills Project Coordinator,

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