THURSDAY 28 JAN 2016 2:49 PM


From government to business, from NGO to start-up, knowledge of digital is as important to organisations as traditional skills such as copywriting or data analysis. Yet, despite the UK reportedly having the largest internet-based economy in the world, it is widely reported that an impending skills gap faces the digital industry.

Incentives are needed to ensure young people are equipped with the relevant digital skills, allowing them to obtain and excel in the countless jobs with a large digital factor. Events such as the Annual Digital Skills Festival, this year held in Manchester, are one way for prospective employers to appeal to students who might have the talent to succeed in the digital sector.

Organised by digital trade association Manchester Digital, the four-day festival runs from 9 - 12 February and will open by revealing results of the 2016 annual digital skills audit. Despite the 2015 results indicating that over 80% of UK businesses grew in economic and employment terms, 62% of businesses surveyed also reported having to turn away opportunities for growth due to lack of available talent.

The festival aims to address this issue. It encourages organisations with a large digital component to participate in panel discussions, debates and seminars on skills required, and aims to educate students on the merits of learning a digital skill set.

The digital skills gap is a result of the rapid shift of jobs to technology-based platforms. Indeed, the transition has taken place, and continues to take place, so quickly that skill centres, schools and primary employers have had no opportunity to provide training adequate for future employment requirements. For example, social media - which five years ago was largely confined to personal use – is now a major requirement for many organisations.

Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, says, “The North West digital industry has the potential to be a hub for tech excellence in Europe. However, we currently don’t have enough skilled professionals to manage the workload, which is hampering the industry’s growth. Recruitment is notoriously difficult, and the Digital Skills Festival is key in addressing these issues.”

She says, “The entire event is a brilliant opportunity for everyone involved in digital, from education providers wanting a steer from businesses about what is needed from the industry in terms of skills, to students looking for their first step up, and digital companies searching for emerging talent. There’s something for everyone and we are, as always, looking forward to another great event.”