Nearly half of North West tech businesses "negatively impacted" by Brexit

David Prior's picture
by David Prior

Almost half of tech and digital businesses in the North West have felt the effects from uncertainty around Brexit, according to the results of Manchester Digital’s annual digital skills audit.

Of those businesses, 56% cited concerns around losing key staff members and how they will fill gaps if overseas workers’ rights are changed. A further 48% of businesses stated that customers are delaying work or they have seen a slow-down in orders since the UK voted to leave the EU.

Results also showed that more than a quarter (27%) have had to turn away work as a result of not being able to find the right talent.

When asked which skillsets are likely to grow in importance for their business, developer was once again the most in demand and also the most difficult role to fill, with almost half (49%) of organisations stating that they struggle to recruit developers with the adequate level of training.

A brand new entry for 2018 was the acquisition of talent in AI and machine learning, which was found to be a key concern for 12% of the region’s digital and tech businesses.

Manchester Digital’s audit of over 250 digital and technology businesses was revealed today at the sixth annual Digital Skills Festival. The four-day event brings together those interested in a digital career with education providers and digital and tech businesses from across the region to boost talent and skills.

Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, said: “The results of our annual skills audit once again highlights an industry which is flourishing in the North West, but is being impacted by an inability to train and retain the best talent.

“The skills gap continues to be one of the biggest inhibitors to growth in the tech and digital industry. Uncertainty around Brexit - whilst clearly an important issue - is one over which we have very little control. The onus therefore falls on the industry to take a proactive approach to solving our own talent problem.

“These steps include radically improving how tech is taught in schools by creating industry standard modules that directly link to the needs of the sector. Creating flexible course provision so companies can upskill staff to meet demand for AI and data science skills etc.

“The decline in apprenticeship starts is disappointing but unsurprising given the poor implementation of the levy. Most companies are still recruiting graduates over and above apprentices and are investing in their own grad schemes rather than putting any investment or resource into recruiting apprentices. Hopefully the 60% national decline in apprenticeship start will make government revisit the process.”