The annual Digital Skills Festival is returning to Manchester next month to help find and connect the North West’s best young digital talent with some of the region’s biggest tech employers, in order to tackle a widening skills shortage.

The five-day event, hosted by Manchester Digital, is the UK’s largest digital skills careers fair, connecting 1500 students from schools, colleges and universities across the region with respected industry professionals and employers, to highlight opportunities across the sector.

Now in its seventh year, the festival will take place from 4-8 February at locations across Manchester, starting with the festival launch at the MSP Tech Incubator where the findings from the 2019 Digital Skills Audit will be revealed.  

Results from the 2018 Digital Skills Audit revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of businesses in the region had to turn away work as a result of not being able to find the right talent. 

The launch event will also kick off the GM Digital Skills Programme and welcome talks from a number of keynote speakers including Josh Smith, Senior Researcher at DEMOS, on the future of education.

Tuesday 5 February welcomes the festival’s flagship event, Talent Day, where 40 of the region’s biggest digital, tech and creative employers, including AutoTrader and BJSS, will gather at the Principal Hotel in search of the best young talent, offering advice to students on how to break into the industry.

Seminars and workshops will take place throughout the day, providing insight into various placement programmes and graduate initiatives in areas such as development, design, digital marketing, project management and user experience.

Commenting on this, Katie Gallagher, Managing Director at Manchester Digital, said: “Despite the digital tech sector seeing remarkable growth across Manchester and the wider North West, this growth is currently being restricted by a severe talent shortage, meaning demand for skilled professionals is outstripping supply.

“With a 30% vacancy rate in digital and tech roles across Greater Manchester, the region needs to focus on mining a rich stream of digital talent, and retain that talent once they have it. This is why the Digital Skills Festival is such an important event, showcasing the best career opportunities on offer across the region and highlighting just how interesting and varied a career in tech and digital in the North West can be. This in turn will raise awareness, drive change and help deliver the volume and quality of talent that the region is crying out for.”

Sarah Brookes-Pearce, Future talent Manager at AutoTrader, added: “Talent day is one of our favourite events in the skills and careers calendar. We’ve made some great hires from students we’ve met on the day, and are excited to be part of the fair once again.”

Dozens of schools have signed up to take part in the festival’s Experience Days on 7th and 8th February, which give young people a taste of what a career in tech and digital could be like through practical activities including coding, website building, hacking and app development.

Gallagher added: “As well as household names such as Amazon, Moonpig and GCHQ relocating to Manchester, we’re also seeing an astounding number of start-ups choosing to set up here, making the career opportunities endless. The North West offers young people fantastic long-term prospects for achieving flourishing careers in tech and digital that they would have previously gone to London to seek. The Digital Skills Festival is all about showcasing this.”

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