Burnham Targeting Digital Acceleration for Greater Manchester

Article date: Thu, 20 Apr 2017 13:35 GMT

Arlene Bulfin and Andy Burnham

Labour mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham is pledging to throw his weight behind the city’s digital sector and create a world-leading tech hub, if elected Mayor in May.

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Speaking during a visit to fast-growing Manchester technology brand UKFast, the MP announced his intention to hold a digital summit, if elected. By putting technical education and opportunities for young people at the heart of his strategy, Burnham aims to further grow the sector and combat the current tech skills gap.

Burnham met members of UKFast’s apprenticeship scheme who are currently studying a highly skilled software development and IT curriculum, while also working on live projects within the business.

He said: “Digital has to be a core part of our story as a city going forward. There’s no other sector that has quite the same potential for rebalancing our economy.

“People outside of Manchester are beginning to recognise it as world-class, and the election of the first City-Region Mayor is a fantastic moment to start talking about it ourselves. My interest is in building the likes of UKFast as big as they want to get. I am unashamedly prioritising investment in Greater Manchester companies. I will do whatever’s possible to build them up.

“There’s a critical mass of companies, big and small, that are creating an incredible energy around digital in the city. We have to capitalise on that with a policy agenda focussed on boosting the skills and infrastructure to support the development of a world-leading digital sector.”

Manchester’s digital industries are now worth £2.9 billion to the regional economy, employing more than 62,000 people with an average salary of £47,349, according to the latest Tech Nation report.

“If elected I’m going to quickly convene a digital summit,” Burnham continued, “announcing our ambition to the country and to the world that Greater Manchester is going to become a world-leading digital region, building on all the great strengths of the city’s current digital ecosystem.

“The message I’ll send to companies around the world is that we’ve got the best pipeline of talent coming through, so bring your business here. Manchester is full of creative talent and everyone knows that.”

Burnham’s mayoral campaign has the backing of UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE, who said: “It’s a breath of fresh air to have a leader coming out and putting tech at the centre of everything. We’ve been saying for some time that Manchester has the potential to be the number one tech city in the country, so the fact that Andy’s saying he wants to be the number one tech city in Europe is music to my ears.

“It’s all very well wanting to be the best but you have to address the weaknesses that you have. One area causing a bottleneck is that we’re not creating enough talent. It’s great to see Andy say immediately that he wants to significantly boost the quality of digital education in schools and put a big focus on technical education and apprenticeships as an alternative to university.

“It’s a great moment for Manchester. We gain a huge amount from being able to make our own spending decisions locally, as opposed to being governed by Westminster. To take advantage of that opportunity we need a leader with incredible vision and I believe Andy has that.”

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