Manchester businesses call for expertise in data science, UX, AI and machine learning

In the race to acquire top talent, almost 25% of Manchester vacancies advertised in the last 12 months remained unfilled

New figures from Manchester Digital, the independent trade body for digital and tech businesses in Greater Manchester, have revealed that 72% of businesses in the region have experienced growth in the last year, up from 54% in 2018.

Despite such prosperous results, companies are still calling out for talent, with developer roles standing out as the most in-demand for the seventh consecutive year. The other most sought-after skills in the next three years include data science (15%), UX (15%), and AI and machine learning (11%).

In the race to acquire top talent, almost 25% of Manchester vacancies advertised in the last 12 months remained unfilled, largely due to a lack of suitable candidates and inflated salary demands.

Unveiled at Manchester Digital’s annual Skills Festival last week, the Annual Skills Audit, which evaluates data from 250 digital and tech companies and employees across the region, also analysed the various professional pathways into the sector.

The majority (77%) of candidates entering the sector harbour a degree of some sort; however, of the respondents who possessed a degree, almost a quarter claimed it was not relevant to tech, while a further 22% reported traversing through the sector from another career.


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On top of this, almost one in five respondents said they had self-taught or upskilled their way into the sector – a positive step towards boosting diversity in terms of both the people and experience pools entering the sector.

“It’s positive to see a higher number of businesses reporting growth this year, particularly from SMEs. While the political and economic landscape is by no means settled, it seems that businesses have strategies in place to help them navigate through this uncertainty,” said Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital.

“What’s particularly interesting in this year’s audit are the data sets around pathways into the tech sector,” added Gallagher. “While a lot of people still do report having degrees – and we’d like to see more variation here in terms of more people taking up apprenticeships, work experience placements etc. – it’s interesting to see that a fair percentage are retraining, self-training or moving to the sector with a degree that’s not directly related. Only by creating a talent pool from a wide and diverse range of people and backgrounds can we ensure that the sector continues to grow and thrive sustainably.”

When asked what they liked about working for their current employer, employees across the region mentioned flexible work as the number one perk they value (40%). Career progression was also a crucial factor to those aged 18-21, with these respondents also identifying brand prestige as a reason to choose a particular employer.

“For this first time this year, we’ve expanded the Skills Audit to include opinions from employees, as well as businesses. With the battle for talent still one of the biggest challenges employers face, we’re hoping that this part of the data set provides some valuable insights into why people choose employers and what they value most – and consequently helps businesses set successful recruitment and retention strategies,” Gallagher concluded.

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