The technology sector now employs more than a fifth of the workforce in UK’s biggest cities and, across the UK, tech employs 2.93m people – a 40% growth in two years. Data analysed by Tech Nation for the Government’s Digital Economy Council in 2020 revealed that in Cardiff 21% of the workforce was employed in digital tech roles.
CEO of Tech Nation, Gerard Grech, thinks tech is creating a real opportunity to redraw the economic map of the UK, as networks become driven by virtual clusters rather than physical location and a growing level of investment is directed outside of London.
The opportunity tech offers to decentralised away from London and southeast England has been accelerated by Covid, as work from home became essential and people relocated to other regions.
“There’s been a huge amount of behavioural change. We have data that looked at advertised vacancies around the country. And since Covid, we’ve seen that the second most advertised sector for job vacancies is the tech sector, after healthcare. And, obviously, Covid has accelerated the need for digital skills as things go more and more online. And, if I’m not mistaken, 50% of those jobs are outside London in the southeast.
“That’s quite a significant shift from where things were a few years ago. And UK Tech now employs roughly 9% of the workforce, which is a lot higher than where it was 10 years ago. So that just gives you the sense that more and more jobs are being created not just in certain cities, but actually right across the country.”
Decentralising away from London is also helping keep the right skills within regional economies, whether that’s graduates from Welsh institutions staying in the cities in which they studied, or Wales-based tech firms being able to attract world-leading talent from a huge geographical area, which in turn drives growth.
“Obviously you need talent,” he adds. “You need the universities, you need to college and the further education to be even more relevant, producing graduates, or students or people leaving colleges with the right skills, which will then attract investments and capital, which sometimes can be de-risked using the Welsh Business Bank, so that you attract more investors.”
Working outside London could also bring benefits of productivity, a people seek better work-life balance or ways of working that suit them.
“There’s already starting to be a healthy balance between what employers need and employees want. I think that’s a good thing because it will only help more and more productivity. There’s evidence to show that the happier a person is as a knowledge economy worker, the more productive they are. How do you create a culture and a company where everybody’s doing their best every day? And the answer for some might want to be living in places where previously it wouldn’t have been possible to be a knowledge economy worker.”
Wales’s thriving tech sector looks set to continue to be a key driver of prosperity in the country.