Stuart Andrew MP Guest Blog for FDM
With over 15,000 digital jobs, Leeds is one of the UK’s largest centres for the digital economy outside of London. As a Leeds MP, the work that FDM is doing to retain local talent to support the city’s growing tech sector is greatly welcomed. Too often we lose our brightest graduates to London because they are unaware of the opportunities available within Leeds and the wider Yorkshire region.
Not just in Leeds, but across all parts of the country and all sectors businesses are reporting that they are struggling to fill digital vacancies. Last week the British Chamber of Commerce reported that 84% of firms say that digital and IT skills are more important to their business than two years ago, however more than three quarters of businesses said they are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce.
With women hugely under-represented in tech jobs (they account for just 17% of the workforce) this represents a massive pool of potential talent that could be activated to plug the digital skills gap and, to me, this seems like a good place to start.
When I visited the Leeds FDM academy last week, I met students who hadn’t studied IT but were thoroughly enjoying (and thriving) working for a digital organisation. Given that so few girls study IT at school or beyond this opens up the sector considerably.
That this fast growing sector is open to a wide range of graduates who may not otherwise have considered IT as a career choice is an important message that I will be taking with me on my visits to schools and colleges in the region. They need to be exciting students about the range of jobs they could be doing, even without studying a STEM subject.
I know FDM has been a longstanding champion of women in tech and is working hard with government officials to drive this agenda. I hope to see a more diverse tech sector over the coming years to tackle both the gender and digital gaps.