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The digital industry: A developers perspective

The digital surge

The UK digital industry is booming and has grown in stature. Digital tech industries have become a key contributor to the UK's economy, growing faster in turnover, GVA and productivity than the rest of the economy. The current demand for certain roles in the industry has grown largely over the years, meaning there are more job opportunities available to us.

But why is there such a high demand for these certain roles I hear you ask? Well after digging through the Manchester Digital 'Skills Summit' 2016 slide deck and the 2016 Tech Nation report, I uncovered some interesting pieces of information that shed some light on the subject.

The industry as a whole

Before we delve deep into this we first need to understand the industry as whole. In the last 12 months the digital industry has seen a whopping 84% in growth with 1.56 million jobs existing within the digital tech economy. According to the Tech Nation report, the digital economy grew 32% faster than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2014, with the digital economy turning over a staggering £161 billion in 2014. The digital industry also adds £87 billion to the economy, showcasing its importance to the UK economy.

Ok so the industry is doing great, so what is in such high demand?

Now that we live in a digital world, you probably thought it would be easy for a digital business to hire good developers, right? Well, no not really. In the North West 65% of digital businesses found the Developer role to be the most difficult role to fill, which is a concern for anybody when you consider that 25% of digital businesses say that development is the most significant function within their business.

But surely there are plenty of skilled coders in the UK, right?

Well yes there are but it isn't just about being able to code, I believe we now live in a world where developers must be able to communicate effectively and work well within teams. An interesting article from article from discusses how found hiring developers a difficult task as many applicants lacked the soft skills, like communication, required and that the company would rather hire a developer who had better soft skills than a developer who had better coding skills.

Pie chart showing three most difficult roles to fill.
Pie chart showing three most difficult roles to fill.

Outsourcing work is outrageous, but there's a reason for it

When I read how many digital businesses in the UK outsourced their work, I cried in my bowl of cornflakes. Ok, I didn't cry really and I wasn't eating cornflakes at the time, but it did open my eyes a bit. According to the Manchester Digital 2016 slide deck, 38% of businesses outsourced development work locally or used contract workers.

While outsourcing isn't necessarily a disaster, I feel this shows that businesses can't fill their roles quick enough and are having no choice but to outsource. Oh, and which type of role is the biggest outsourced? Yep you've guessed it, the development role. About 38% of work that is outsourced is development work, which ties in with how businesses are struggling to fill development roles.

It's not all doom and gloom

Ok, so I've been quite negative in this post talking about how businesses are struggling to hire good developers, but all this high demand stuff is also a good thing. The digital industry is growing rapidly in the UK which means there are plenty of opportunities available. We as developers need to make sure we keep on top of our soft skills just as much as our technical skills. One great way of doing both of these things is attending meetups and conferences which enable us to meet people from the digital community and to socialise and share with each other.

We are privileged to be in an industry so tightly knitted together with people willing to share with others that there are plenty of conferences and meetups to attend. Sticking close to home there is McrFRED for example, which is a monthly meetup in Manchester for front-end developers, organised by Simon Owen, who is well-known in the industry. Up Front Conf is a Manchester based conference, open to anyone involved in the web with Simon, again, one of the organisers.

One meet up that I regularly attend, and highly recommend, is McrFRED. It is free to attend and a great place to meet fellow developers in Manchester, to learn and share ideas with each other. Plus, you get free goodies like beer, soft drink and the occasional t-shirt, so you'd be silly to turn down an opportunity to get your hands on some free stuff. I shall provide a list of great meets ups and conferences to attend at the end of this post.

Finishing off

All in all, the digital industry is going through an exciting phase with plenty of opportunities open to us. It is clear that soft skills are a big requirement in the industry, which is something you can only really teach yourself, but if you can achieve that and keep updated on your technical skills, then it will set you in good stead to work in such a great industry.

Recommended conferences and meet ups


Meet ups


  • Digital Skills Festival Conference. (2016). Skills Summit Deck Slides. [ONLINE] [Accessed: 5/10/16] URL: Manchester Digital Slide Deck 2016

  • Sooraj Shah. (2014). 'We want to hire developers but we're struggling to find really talented ones' - CTO. [ONLINE] [Accessed 30 September 2016]. URL: Tech Nation Report 2016

  • Tech Nation UK. (2016). Tech Nation Report 2016. [ONLINE] [Accessed: 5/10/16] URL: Tech Nation Report 2016