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As Britain heads into new frontiers, a group of 500 of Britain’s most innovative creative digital enterprises are collaborating on a proactive approach to tackling a problem that has troubled the tech industry for almost two decades. The lack of industry ready graduates.

21st Century Tech skills contribute 3 times as much to UK GDP as any other skillset. Yet despite this obvious boon, the combination of growth of digital services and shortage of experienced technologists means access to world-class talent in the UK is in increasing short supply. Compounding a problem that has plagued the UK’s IT industry since before the turn of the millennium.

Manchester’s Axelisys is working in partnership with Manchester Digital, a not-for-profit independent trade association for digital businesses in the North West. Their Digital Futures Programme aims to plug the widening technology demand for advanced digital skills, offering broad and deep pathways to traditional academic, and new vocational technical qualifications like the T-level Digital Apprenticeships. Particularly through real-world work experience in the IT sector.

Ethar Alali, founder and Chief Executive of Axelisys says “There has been a global shortage of skilled technologists for some time. It has created a buoyant market for specialist technology skills which has seen smaller enterprises or charities simply priced out. Compounding this is the problem of technology progression. It changes at such a pace, that traditional qualifications run the risk of obsolescence within their duration.”

Formed in 2011 and now with two offices in the city, The Innovation Engineering firm’s unique “Chaordic” structure works with up to 40 freelance and permanent staff at any one time, anywhere in the world. With an impressive client portfolio, they’ve slowly become a quiet, established force in the digital sector.

Yet, they are just one of a number of corporate members of Manchester Digital. Recently, they partnered up to launch the 2018 Digital Futures Programme, which gives students an opportunity to access cutting edge tech practise and proudly showcase creative innovation far outside the walls of their college and university walls.

“Manchester Digital has 500 tech and digital business members, committed to supporting projects which enhance the digital sector of the future.“ said Emma Grant, Talent and Skills Manager at Manchester Digital.

“In partnership with members, we are helping tackle the talent shortfall by bridging industry and education through our Digital Futures programme and supporting teachers and career advisors, through free Continuing Professional Development events. Ensuring more young people choose a career in tech and aware of the opportunities. “

Ethar continues “Through the Digital Futures programme and with Manchester Digital’s support, we hope to give younger people real-world, industry linked experience working together, to build and run a social enterprise, for the good of the community at large.”

Students will set up and run a digital enterprise. A real undertaking that runs as a real company. Without traditional shareholders. Students will have to carry out fundraising tasks and digital marketing, to build enough funds to pay to host anything they develop, all the consumables they need, as well as collaborating to perform the technical work itself.

“Given the breadth of experience, the opportunity is open to more than just tech students.” Ethar enthused.

“It’s open to media, business studies and marketing students too. They’re developing technologies that charities and community organisations around Greater Manchester would otherwise never be able to access. It’s run by the students, for the community. It’s a real business!

“Make no mistake though, what we’re doing is extremely ambitious!”

This year, Axelisys and Manchester Digital are running their first pilot in partnership with Loreto College in Hulme. Each exercise is expected to last for up to 3 months and offers students invaluable experience, most would never get before graduating.

Jasmine Mohammed, Head of Computing at Loreto College said “It’s imperative that students can participate with industry, in order to enrich their learning experience and provide them with the confidence to apply their skills within the working environment”

This opportunity is huge and could lead to much bigger things for the students and the future of the Digital sector. Although as with every company, clients are the key. This could be a great opportunity for small businesses, crafters and local bands to get that digital presence in the form of a website, or perhaps develop an Alexa skill.

“We are looking for a number of new customers. As part of this, they will get their tech needs met for free.” explains Ethar.

So, who are the ideal clients?

“Small charities, Sports Clubs, Schools, music bands and essentially anyone who needs a website but feels it’s out of budget.” Explains Ethar “We at Axelisys are looking for around 10 such companies to take part in the first programme. But in future, who knows!”

If you are interested in taking part of this programme, simply contact Axelisys at hello@axelisys.co.uk with your idea or follow Manchester Digital (@McrDig) on the hashtag #DigitalFuturesCCC to see what they’re up to.

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Axelisys is an Innovation Engineering firm based in Manchester, UK. You can find out more about them at www.axelisys.co.uk, follow them on “Axelisys” on Facebook [fb.com/Axelisys], Twitter [@Axelisys] and Instagram [Instagram.com/Axelisys].

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