Nottingham

Nottingham’s battle for skills: A modern day digital tale of Robin Hood

Nottingham folklore is no stranger to injustice and the fight between good and evil – Robin Hood has been the subject of many a production. However, Nottingham has a new fight on its hands – a much more modern, digital battle to wage and this time it’s being fought on two key fronts: salary and job satisfaction.

To set the scene on our 21st Century tale, the Midlands as a region is growing in favour with technology companies. It has a vibrant start-up scene, with universities that produce technically literate graduates and companies that can see the potential of using it as a base for operations. There are many reasons to be cheerful about Nottingham as a specific location too – the number of digital jobs in the city is around 20,000, the city’s population is one of the youngest in the UK, with around 50% being under 30 and it boasts an affordable quality of life for its residents. It all sounds very rosy. However, as with every good ‘in-the-face-of adversity’ story, there is always a ‘but’. In Nottingham’s case, it’s ‘but’ stems primarily from its great location.

As part of the Midlands tech scene Nottingham is vying for the skills to fulfil its 20,000+ digital jobs. It has a cluster of big players – large companies like Capital One, Experian, TDX Group, Boots and MHR are based in the city and continue to grow and digitise. Co-working spaces are also on the increase and can be found at Antenna, Minor Oak and the University of Nottingham Innovation Park. Blenheim Chalcot has opened a new hub for digital businesses in the city centre called Accelerate Places and demand for space is so high that expansion into a neighbouring building has already been announced. Even with two universities to boast, the supply of software development talent simply can’t keep pace with demand upon it. Like much of the rest of the UK, the drought of software development talent is a challenge – where to find the skills to ramp up and rapidly serve market demands is a national issue. Where Nottingham suffers further is that its closest neighbours, Leicester, Worcester and of course, Birmingham have thousands of digital positions to fill too putting pressure on the Midland’s as a whole, driving up salaries and setting the bar high for the opportunity to work with big brands on exciting projects. Over 25% of companies describe sourcing the right talent as a major challenge and 50% highlight a shortage of highly skilled employees as their single biggest issue.

But there’s one further drain on Nottingham’s resources. With just a 90-minute commute and direct transport links to London, those with the necessary skills can live in Nottingham and work in London if they’re able and willing – increasing their salary and the potential to work in the capital. At the time of the last census in 2011, the data revealed that 1,206 people live in Nottingham but work in London, up from 493 in 2001. That is 1% of the city’s population. Commuting to the capital is helped by growing investment in public transport, the lure of HS2 – if it comes to fruition and the extortionate cost of housing. London is our modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham – it is laying claim to ‘estates’ that don’t rightfully belong to it, and the Midlands must fight back. So, what can be done?

Aside from paying huge wage bills, attracting staff with better working conditions and a better work-life balance, the widening skills gap and the drain on talent requires new battle lines to be drawn. Temporary labour is expensive, graduates don’t yet have the gravitas for senior development roles and as we’ve already stated, those that are senior enough can name their price and their project – and often elsewhere. Increasingly UK brands such as Nottingham-based Experian have tapped into the skills pool in Belarus which is rich in talent – where the UK is poor. I wouldn’t go as far as to draw a direct comparison of Godel with Robin Hood, but we know a rich talent pool when we see it and we have many customers who are scaling rapidly thanks to it.

If the Nottingham/East Midland’s skills gap issue resonates with your organisation, it’s worth contacting Godel on 0161 219 8100.