Everyone who lives and works in the North East’s creative and digital sectors knows what a great and vibrant place it is to be. However, if you’re not from the area or are still in education, your opinion of the area is likely to be thirty years out of date.
My experience at Tech North (part of the Govt-backed Tech City UK) and at Sage before that, has proven to me that one of the biggest barriers to success in the North East is a lack of positive media coverage. Yes, there are serious problems in some parts of the region but there are also huge success stories too if you know where to look but which aren’t being highlighted often enough. If all people ever get to see or hear are the negatives, is it any wonder that so many teachers, parents and grandparents tell their kids to move away in search of a brighter future, mistakenly believing there’s nothing for them here?
But it doesn’t need to be this way and thankfully there are many brilliant people working hard to re-educate and inspire people, shifting their focus from the failures of the past towards the opportunities of the future.
It’s for this reason that I was so pleased that we (Tech North) could sponsor Creative North’s ‘Get Digital North East’ event in Newcastle on 17th March. This event is all about shining a light on some of the fantastic digital and creative businesses and membership organisations we already have in the North East, whilst encouraging greater collaboration between them and providing an opportunity for people looking to start a career in the sector.
Newcastle has one of the strongest and most vibrant tech startup scenes in the UK which can be witnessed first hand at the free events, workshops and developer meetups that take place almost every night of the week at the Campus North co-working and event space where I am based, plus the amazingly talented people that work there during the day.
The recent ‘Tech Nation 2016’ report from my colleagues at Tech City UK revealed that when it comes to ‘digital tech economy jobs’, Newcastle had the second highest salary growth of any in the UK last year at 26.6% with an average salary of £44,068. Obviously not everyone is earning that much money but when you take the lower cost of living and arguably higher quality of life up here, Newcastle compares rather favourably with London’s average digital salary of £58,978. Sunderland has also seen significant growth in its digital economy in recent years with 17% growth in employment and 44% increase in turnover, largely thanks to the great work of organisations like Sunderland Software City helping to support and grow businesses in the city.
But there’s still much more to be done. If we want the North East digital and creative economy to grow and compete on a national and international level we have to all get better at shouting about our successes, collaborate more and do everything we can to upskill or retrain our existing workforce whilst providing relevant, useful and practical skills and training for our next generation of employees.
So let’s come together to show that the North East really does ‘Get Digital’, starting with the event at CastleGate on 17th March. I hope to see you there!