Salford’s HOST launches Skills City with a commitment to fast-track 450 technology career starts each year for women and the BAME community

A unique digital skills powerhouse is set to transform talent diversity in the North West’s tech sector, by breaking the barriers faced by those from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds and fast-tracking 450 people into careers in digital technology every year.

Skills City comprises leading digital technology bootcamp academies, working in collaboration with employers at all levels to create a clear pathway to jobs and diverse talent recruitment.

Based at HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology at MediaCityUK, it aims to provide fairer access to digital and technology career starts, creating the most diverse technology talent pool and thus being a magnet for technology businesses to move into the region.

Women remain largely underrepresented in the tech sector (17 per cent in the UK), and in a bid to readdress gender inequality, Skills City has committed that 50 per cent of learners will be represented by women.

People from a BAME background, those who are financially disadvantaged, or on career breaks like return to work mums, are also encouraged to explore the opportunities available at Skills City as alternative routes to finding employment in the tech sector.

The Skills City Learner Charter commits to securing skilled job offers for all its cohorts. A dedicated team of employer engagement managers and community skills coaches will be working across the region’s businesses large and small, with all learners completing an employability programme and industry projects as part of their training.

HOST by IN4.0 has a strong track record in skills development and will be delivering best in class training across six technology areas: cyber, data analytics, immersive technologies, cloud engineering, software engineering and creative digital media.

The technology training will be delivered by Skills City’s academies including the Raytheon Cyber Academy, Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start, University of Salford, Unity 3D Academy and Black Codhers, a specialist software engineering academy for black women. All Skills City academies will carry a professional industry certification and transition to level 3 and 4 apprenticeships.

At the heart of Skills City is the commitment to removing the present barriers impacting diversity and inclusivity during the entire learning journey, from education and skills training right through to securing a job in the tech industry. Skills City’s expert team will support employers in achieving their diversity and inclusion ambitions.

This unique offering will include outreach programmes into BAME and disadvantaged communities across Greater Manchester and the North West, where individuals who would not otherwise have fair access to opportunities will be supported to embark on a career in technology.

Another programme due to launch shortly from Skills City will be Kickstart Digital. In collaboration with Salford City Council, it will provide digital skills development to young people employed on the government’s six-month Kickstart employment scheme.

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted Salford residents aged 16-24 with 2,785 now claiming unemployment related benefits, an increase of 1,400 since March 2020.

This will not only help to grow businesses in Salford but also create life-changing opportunities and hope for young people, kickstarting their careers and opening up employment opportunities.

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group, operators of HOST, said: “Establishing Skills City has been a very personal mission, a first of its kind Skills City in Greater Manchester, and our ambition is to establish a Skills City hub within all of the region’s technology clusters as a catalyst to eradicating inequality and digital exclusion.”

“Diversity and inclusion is in our DNA at HOST and we see Skills City as a bridge between education and responsible employers. We understand that offering training courses is not enough, especially now when unemployment is at an all-time high, and while many career routes have been shut down, digital skills continue to be in demand. We will be launching recruitment in April and building a community of tech talent from the most diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to support them through their journey into employment.”

“By working in collaboration with the government, local authorities and employment partners, our mission is to support people from across Greater Manchester, the North and the UK with overcoming the barriers into new careers in tech.”

Salford’s City Mayor, Paul Dennett, said: “Salford is committed to becoming a digitally inclusive city where no-one, young or old is left behind. No-one should be excluded from opportunities in the latest industries or everyday life just because they cannot get online or do not feel confident using the latest technology.”

“Skill City is a key part of our Digital Everyone ambition to ensure local residents have access to cutting edge training and development to realise their full potential and create a better, fairer Salford.”

Tom Stannard, Chief Executive of Salford City Council, said the pandemic had accelerated digital adoption and emphasised that digital skills are now as essential as maths or English.”

“Salford is now second only to London as a digital and technology hub for businesses and, as a result, has the fastest growing economy in Greater Manchester.”

“Local businesses have shown they can adapt to rapidly changing and challenging circumstances and use digital technology – from virtual reality to online transactions to open up new markets and cut costs. By investing now in cutting edge skills we will develop the workforce needed to grow these industries and not just drive our recovery but transform our future economy,” said Tom.

Stephen Wild, Managing Director of MediaCityUK, said: “Our MediaCityUK community includes some of the fastest-growing and most dynamic enterprises in the country, meaning the ability to attract and recruit trained technology talent, at speed, is crucial in this fast-moving sector. The Skills City graduates will ultimately provide all MediaCityUK businesses with the opportunity to reach their digital and tech recruitment goals as well as provide local, diverse talent with fantastic employment opportunities.”