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Friday 12th February 2016
With the digital economy in the UK thriving, it’s definitely an exciting time to be a tech professional.

In a recent report by Tech city “Tech Nation 2016: Transforming UK Industries” it was recorded that turnover growth in the UK’s Digital technology industries grew 32% faster than the rest of the economy in 2010-2014.

On Wednesday we went along to the Leeds Digital Job Fair at the First Direct arena. The event was the first of its kind in Leeds with the aim to bring together the future of digital talent in Leeds.

Leeds digital jobs fair to bridge the skills gap?

It was reported by the Yorkshire Post the worrying evidence that many technology firms are struggling with a digital skills gap, who are experiencing difficulty finding the right candidates with the right skills. Women in tech is also a pressing issue in the tech industry with a significant gender gap being felt in the majority of technology companies.

Amy De-Balsi, founder of Leeds online job board HERD, stated that the number of vacancies in the Leeds digital sector has risen by almost half over the last 12 months from 400 roles to 600 roles. However with a lack of candidates with the correct skills, more needs to be done to get more people into technology based careers. Therefore the Leeds digital job fair was a perfect opportunity to make head way in doing this.

More than 30 technology businesses including Sky Bet, Provident Financial, BJSS and Proctor and Gamble came along to showcase their businesses and hundreds of vacancies to around 2,000 prospective technology candidates. It was really great to see the turnout of attendees and the sheer number of exciting technology companies looking to support the growth of the digital economy in the North.

Why a digital focus on Leeds and The North?

While the focus for technology professionals for where they base their careers has typically always been in London, it seems recently there has been a significant shift of techies moving to other technology clusters across the UK, including those in Cambridge, Bath and Bristol but in particular those in the North of England (Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield), driving the much talked about Northern Powerhouse. (See our info-graphic here.

We recently wrote a blog about how Leeds workers were more likely to receive a pay rise in 2015, and Tech City research has found that salaries for Leeds technology workers have increased by 29% between 2012 and 2015. Stats found in our infographic state that out of 47,000 companies founded since 2013, 50% were digital and 74% were based outside of London, demonstrating the evident shift of talent from the capital, providing food for thought for aspiring tech professionals in the UK in terms of where to base their careers in the future.

Throughout our visit to the job fair we took the opportunity to have a chat with some of the companies in attendance and to hear their thoughts on the digital economy in Yorkshire and the attraction of tech professionals to The North.

Chris Moran Senior solutions delivery manager at Provident Financial

“A key takeaway for me from the Digital Job Fair was that there is a noticeable shift in the focus for technology graduates.  I struggle to recruit experienced software professionals with a strong focus on User Experience and the creative element.  Typically software development has been a “hard core” discipline dominated by men.  The people I spoke to at the fair demonstrated much more desire for careers in the creative / UX space – technologies such as Javascript, CSS and HTML were much more prevalent than traditional Java / .Net skills.  Also, the majority of people I spoke to in this space were young women which I feel is a positive move for the industry as a whole.”

On the rise of tech in The North, Chris has this to say…

“There is a definite move to The North in respect of the number of high profile employers who are established in the area.  I think this is somewhat of a reaction to the mixed successes of the off-shore model that we see so frequently.  Customers and Employers are looking to leverage the lower operating costs offered in the North and tap into rich new talent pools.  Cities such as Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and York for example have outstanding educational facilities and amazing cultural opportunities, so young people leaving universities tend to stay in the area now, and thus there is an amazing talent pool that employers can draw upon to grow their organisations.”

When speaking with Kimberly Bell, Talent Acquisition Manager at it was refreshing to hear that this year they will actually be offering summer placement programmes for young aspiring digital professionals in Yorkshire. This will provide invaluable technical work experience for the future of tech talent, which they will then be able to take forward into their further careers.The introduction of the placement schemes will also start to make progress in bridging the digital skills gap being felt in the UK. is a great example of how The North, in particular Yorkshire is becoming a hot spot for digital talent.

Head quartered in San Francisco Financialforce CEO Jeremey Roche now has about thirds of the firm's staff based in Harrogate. Read more about how Yorkshire is offering a northern home for tech's finest here.

It was great to be able to attend the job fair and see for ourselves the buzz surrounding the tech sector on our doorstep in Leeds. We’re definitely looking forward to visiting more of these events in the future.
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