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Manchester's tech sector marks 'important day for region' and reveals what it wants from new Mayor

Over 100 of the region’s tech entrepreneurs and professionals met in Manchester today to discuss how the newly elected mayor could shape the city’s digital future, hailing Burnham’s appointment as a real opportunity to do things ‘our way’.   

Organised by Manchester Digital, the ‘digital revolution’ event opened with a panel discussion about the role Andy Burnham has to play in further developing Manchester’s prosperous digital and technology sector in his new role as mayor.

Panelists Shaun Fensom, digital infrastructure consultant, Alison Ross from Auto Trader, Tony Foggett, CEO of Code Computerlove and Manchester Digital’s Katie Gallagher discussed how a mix of devolution and new leadership structure holds the power to make a real impact when it comes to talent and skills, innovation and infrastructure.

They also underlined Manchester’s digital sector as being key to the region for future prosperity, but added that proper policies now need to drive this.  

While there was lots of positivity around the region’s digital future, conversation turned again to the skills gap, with panelists citing the number of vacant jobs in Manchester, but the fact there’s not enough skilled professionals to fill them.

Panelists believed that a lack of awareness of careers in digital and tech at a school level was the biggest issue, stressing the need for a better careers service within schools and more priority to be placed on retaining the region’s graduates, as well as recruiting them from elsewhere.

Speaking at the event, Manchester Digital’s managing director Katie Gallagher, said: “Today is a particularly important day for Manchester – the combination of devolution and strong leadership will create huge opportunities for the region’s digital and tech sector. Devolution gives us a real opportunity to change the structure behind business support, have greater control over education and skills, and to ensure that the industry fulfils its potential. However, the public sector has traditionally struggled to keep pace with our industry and make meaningful interventions.”

Manchester Digital stressed the importance of developing and maintaining direct dialogue with the mayor to ensure that the voice of the industry is heard and decisions are made from the bottom up.

Katie added: “It’s vital that bureaucracy is cut and the industry is given the opportunity to deliver what it needs in a more meaningful and direct way. We are the largest representative body of digital and technology businesses in Greater Manchester and we draw the whole digital ecosystem together – from startups and SMEs, to large corporates – meaning we can foster business collaboration in a unique way that drives the sector forward.”