Digital skills gap: Tech job vacancies rise to 600 in Leeds

Richard Flint of Sky Bet
Richard Flint of Sky Bet
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THE NUMBER of vacancies for digital jobs in Leeds has expanded by 50 per cent over the last year, highlighting the growing skills gap in the important sector and raising concerns that the city could miss out on investment.

Herd, a newly launched website for IT jobs in the city, said vacancies have increased from 400 in December 2014 to more than 600 now.

The company said the requirements are mainly from large organisations expanding rapidly but there are also lots of small and medium sized businesses looking for digital talent.

Amy De-Balsi, founder of Herd, told The Yorkshire Post: “The main challenge is retaining university talent and attracting skilled workers.”

Leeds City Council has formed a digital skills board of local employers to identify the right short, medium and long-term solutions to the problem.

It meets for the first time tomorrow and, according to Ms De-Balsi, recognises that the skills gap is the biggest challenge facing the sector.

Sky Bet, the private equity-backing online gambling firm, has 200 vacancies at the moment, half of which are for the technology and contact centre teams in Leeds. The other half are at the company’s newly opened technology hub in Sheffield. Once filled, they will take Sky Bet’s head count to 900.

Richard Flint, chief executive, told The Yorkshire Post: “The big constraint we have got is the availability of tech talent. Leeds is good for that, but it is a competitive market and demand is exceeding supply at the moment in that part of the labour market and we need to look more broadly at Sheffield.

“We think it is a great other place to look because it is close enough to Leeds that we can share knowledge, have meetings and put people from one office into the other, but not so close it has the same talent pool.”

He said cities with thriving digital sectors - known as the “flat white economy” - are able to attract international talent, are fun places to live and work, have affordable housing and benefit from good transport and communications infrastructure.

Mr Flint said: “Leeds has got a lot of that already but if we can work harder to further all those aspects, then I think digital businesses can be a massive engine of growth.”

He added that in addition to attracting and retaining talent, the city could help by retraining workers with analytical skills to help plug the gap.

Councillor James Lewis, executive member responsible for resources and strategy, said: “We have seen such a boom in the digital sector here in Leeds over the past few years, with firms expanding and many others being attracted to Leeds’ strong and growing economy. This has created a large demand for skilled and talented people.

“We are now bringing the city’s digital employers together to help attract people with the right skills to fill these vacancies, and are working with digital businesses to provide people with the skills needed to get jobs in this growing sector.

“We are also working closely with the city’s schools, colleges and universities to ensure their students are aware of the range of opportunities available and have access to the training and qualifications they need to fulfil these roles in the future.

“The Leeds digital careers fair which we are supporting in early 2016 will be another opportunity for those interested to find out more about the digital vacancies currently available in the city.”

The council and Leeds Beckett University are sponsoring the Herd Technology Job Fair, which will take place at the First Direct Arena on February 10.

It will allow 40 businesses to showcase their companies and to encourage talent to stay in the region.