Greater Manchester Authority talks digital investment at Connected North 2022

Digital skills

What steps need to be taken to ensure that communities and businesses have the digital skills they need to make the most of improved connectivity in 2022?

Having a good level of digital skills is increasingly important. Greater Manchester’s digital economy is growing very rapidly with a 165% increase in advertised job vacancies over the last 12 months and the pandemic has accelerated many businesses and public services moving online.

Strengthening our digital talent pool is therefore a real focus for the delivery of the Greater Manchester Digital Master Plan, which outlines our three-year approach to achieving our ambitions for Greater Manchester to become a leading digital city region in the world.

We want to create a critical mass of digital talent, positioning Greater Manchester as the key location for businesses looking for a digitally skilled workforce to invest in outside of London.

We know we need to inspire our young people to think about a career in digital and give them the skills and confidence to do so. We must sustain the tech talent pool – linking education and industry by harnessing real role models and industry mentors and ensure that the post-16 technical education system in Greater Manchester provides young people a clear, employer-defined pathway to all priority digital/tech occupations.

Through initiatives such as the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, we are tackling the immediate digital skills shortage and helping employers diversify their workforce by developing a new model for reskilling and reskilling. The fund was a joint venture between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership, developed to address locally identified digital skills gaps and support Greater Manchester and Lancashire residents with accessible routes to digital. use.

This is extended into 2022, as the region will receive a financial boost following a new offer to the government. This will help more people learn in-demand sector-specific skills that provide accessible pathways to careers for better jobs. These Skills Bootcamps will offer free, flexible courses lasting up to 16 weeks and provide candidates with fast track access to an interview with a local employer. We will announce it soon through our channels, so keep an eye out for this upcoming opportunity.

Phil Swan, Chief Digital Officer, The Greater Manchester Authority

Numeric fraction

As the pandemic exacerbates the digital divide across the UK, what steps is the GMCA taking to ensure this is resolved? in their communities

A report produced by The Good Things Foundation and the University of Liverpool in 2020 suggests that levels of digital exclusion are far worse than previously thought. Up to 1.2 million people in Greater Manchester could be excluded or marginalized.

We know that a lack of digital access and skills can have a hugely negative impact on a person’s life, leading to increased loneliness and social isolation, reduced access to employment and education, which in turn are associated with poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans. life expectancy and financial exclusion.

So in October 2020, the Greater Manchester Digital Inclusion Program was launched, with the bold ambition of making Greater Manchester a 100% digital city region. And following his re-election in May 2021, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham announced the ambition for Greater Manchester to become one of the first city-regions in the world to equip all under-25s, over 75 years and people with disabilities with the skills, connectivity and technology to connect.

As part of his enhanced commitment to bringing residents online, the Mayor has set up a Digital Inclusion Action Network. The network takes targeted action to tackle digital exclusion with a particular focus on supporting the under 25s, over 75s and people with disabilities in Greater Manchester. This is complemented by an existing Digital Inclusion Task Force which now has over 190 members bringing together industry, the VCSE sector, public sector partners, local government, schools and healthcare to bridge the digital divide. in Greater Manchester.

An example of the work underway is a one-of-a-kind pilot project that helps people leaving care in Salford connect and benefit from the opportunities the digital world offers.

Most care leavers have to live and budget at a much younger age than their peers – the national average for young people leaving home is 26. Working with Salford City Council, the pilot will support 40 care leavers in Salford with a comprehensive package of support including access to free data for 12 months, free devices through the device donation scheme Salford and free digital skills training to help them develop their online skills and confidence.

Inward investment

How will improved connectivity positively impact social and economic growth in the North? Can connectivity give the North the boost it needs to attract global competitiveness and foreign investment?

Household and business data consumption is 22 times higher today than it was in 2010, and is expected to be another eight times higher by 2030, so standing still is not an option . Being a world-class digital city-region means we need to have world-class connectivity, but despite a recent leap forward, the UK still lags behind many of its international competitors in this area.

In Greater Manchester, we want to remove bandwidth as a barrier to our social, economic and public sector reform goals, and accelerate market investment through initiatives such as the Greater Manchester (LFFN). This program was launched in March 2020, when GMCA appointed Virgin Media Business to provide up to 2,700 km of new fiber optic broadband infrastructure in the region. The £28million investment program connects over 1,500 public sites across the city-region, pushing fiber into new parts of the city-region, creating a platform for much better public services and significantly improving open connectivity in public places.

The program included several bold investments in social value initiatives, including a commitment from Virgin Media Business, investing in digital and STEM skills for young people, connecting 21 homeless shelters, community centers and charities. Over 80% of the LFFN workforce is from the Greater Manchester area, exceeding the original local employment rate target of 50%, and Virgin Media Business has also funded three digital skills programs with the Prince’s Trust and GMCA.

This work is taking place alongside close collaboration with other telecommunications market organizations to encourage investment by reducing barriers and simplifying processes, highlighting areas of low connectivity where growth is expected.

Priorities for the GMCA

How does the GMCA balance priorities as a combined authority in the region?

The role of the GMCA is to support pan Greater Manchester work where collective recognition is needed. Our digital priorities are developed and refined through insights and feedback developed through regular dialogue with government, industry and community feedback. Groups such as our Digital Infrastructure Advisory Group and our Digital Inclusion Action Network are a key way to achieve this, we also meet regularly with representatives from the police, transport, health and 10 Greater Manchester councils who share their own priorities and objectives.

This contribution is reviewed and managed through our Greater Manchester Digital Governance, led by Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, and Tom Stannard, Chief Executive of Salford City Council. Bev and Tom lead the digital and labor and skills areas for the Mayor of Greater Manchester and this reports to the GMCA Board which is made up of the Mayor and ten Heads of Council.

North Connected Hosting

Why is it important for Manchester to host events like Connected North where local authorities, national government, telecom operators and businesses can meet?

Looks like Connected North’s timing in Manchester is incredibly fitting. The UK has emerged from the pandemic with a much more digitized society and a digital economy which the government says is growing six times faster than the national economy.

With much of this growth occurring outside of London, and with the urgency of both the upgrade program and an affordability crisis, Connected North here in Manchester is focusing on the role that good connectivity can play against these immediate pressures and for society. in its entirety.

Book your spot at Connected North here

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