Employment figures commentary: Retain more skilled graduates to boost North East’s expanding tech & digital sector

Posted on the 13 December 2016

Employment figures commentary: Retain more skilled graduates to boost North East’s expanding tech & digital sector

Ahead of the publication of the latest employment figures on Wednesday 14th December, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum has encouraged increased collaboration between the North East’s universities and the growing SME tech and digital sector to help retain more skilled people in the region.

The North East’s tech sector has become one of the region’s 21st Century economic success stories, generating employment for around 30,000 people. However, the Entrepreneurs’’ Forum says that further scale up of these businesses could be achieved if a greater proportion of students educated in the region chose to stay in the North East rather than moving to tech hubs in cities such as London.

Recent figures from Homes for the North suggest that 75,500 British graduates have left the North of England over the last decade, which will impact on the ability of the region’s employers to scale-up their businesses.

Newcastle-based digital agency, Gospelware, has enjoyed strong growth in the last year almost doubling the size of its workforce. It has created eight jobs in 2016, including three in recent months. The company, which was founded in 2010 and designs and builds mobile and web applications and digital architecture, has ambitions to take its workforce from 18 to 36 by the end of 2017.

However, managing director and Entrepreneurs’ Forum member, Ryan Davies, suggests that growth may be a challenge as graduates are still being tempted to leave the region.

He said: “The five North East universities have proven to be an amazing catalyst for the region’s tech sector with world-class research and innovation that has spawned some successful spin-off businesses in the region led by enterprising students. However, tech and digital firms in the North East, keen to scale up their operations by recruiting talented graduates, are still facing the challenge of attracting applicants that see leaving the region as the best option for their careers. We have experienced instances where students have been encouraged to move to London rather than remain in the North East, which reduces the talent pool open to local businesses.

“The visibility of the region’s tech sector in the commercial environment has grown exponentially thanks to companies such as Sage and Ubisoft, and SME firms winning work with companies like Disney. Students at our universities need to hear the same message to realise they can do some amazing things right here in the North East.”

Gillian Marshall, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’’ Forum, said: “Together with advantages such as a lower cost base than cities, such as London, the reputation of the region’s universities in the field of digital and technology is a major draw for tech firms looking to set up in the North East. The hurdle these firms have to overcome is to gain maximum benefit from the region’s skilled workforce, which includes highlighting the benefits of staying in the North East to students. If this can happen, there is no reason why the region can’t enhance its positon as one of the world’s leading locations for tech firms and deliver higher levels of employment in the sector.”