From education to employment

The digital sector provides an opportunity to tackle youth unemployment

Youth unemployment figures released by the government in August showed a record high, but one industry that is currently experiencing a huge skills shortage and could offer a solution is the digital sector.

The latest data has shown that the economy is getting back on track and the digital economy is heralded as a key component to its recovery. Experts seem to agree that the UK’s digital sector is thriving and will be a major source of employment in the coming years, however, due to the exponential growth of the industry and lack of programmers and developers entering the market, there is a huge skills shortage, which could be a prime opportunity for many of the UK’s unemployed youth.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the UK is set to become an information economy in which digital will play a big part. But many universities are simply not equipped to prepare young people for the digital roles available, and many graduates are simply not ready for work when they do graduate, which is creating a big problem for the digital industry.

But there are some great examples of existing schemes which have been set up to combat this issue, educating young people about the thriving digital industry and addressing the growing digital skills gap.

One of which is the partnership between Manchester Digital and the National Apprenticeship Service, which aims to create 450 digital apprenticeship roles across the North West over the next two years.

This initiative aims to encourage talented young people, who are seeking an alternative to university, to consider an Apprenticeship in the thriving digital sector by linking them with member companies who want fresh talent in their business.

In the North West there are high levels of young people unemployed, yet our recent research found that at least 50 per cent of businesses in the region are struggling to recruit staff for digital roles.

Many employers in the sector are struggling to recruit staff with the necessary skills and competencies, and are now choosing to employ apprentices and train young people on the job instead, building the skills needed through high quality Apprenticeship offerings.

At Manchester Digital we work with employers, schools and colleges to ensure that the brightest and best talent flows into the sector. The partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service enables us to encourage more employers in the North West to engage with Apprenticeships and grow their own talent. It also allows us to monitor provision and ensure that training providers in the North West are offering industry standard digital training and also understand the differing needs of the digital SME industry.

This is a shining example and can be easily replicated in other areas of the country in order to give young people an alternative route in to the digital sector, enabling them to learn on the job skills and gain nationally recognised qualifications.

Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to earn while they learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification; and setting them on the road to success. For employers, hiring apprentices is a way of attracting new talent and developing a motivated, skilled and diverse workforce.

Tony Foggett is chair of Manchester Digital, the independent trade association for digital business in the North West of England


For any young people interested, all of the vacancies available through Manchester Digital are advertised on Manchester Digital’s website:

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