Attendees of an event at the Microsoft Manchester office, from left to right: Marie Hamilton, Greater Manchester Regional Lead for Microsoft; Hugh Milward, General Manager, Corporate, External & Legal team, Microsoft UK; Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Rebecca King, UK Apprentice Lead for Microsoft; and Madeleine Ricci, Business Program Manager, Microsoft UK

How Get On Greater Manchester is connecting local talent to digital opportunities

Home to over 10,000 digital and creative businesses, from startups to SMBs, right through to global enterprise, Greater Manchester has a well-deserved reputation as a thriving tech hub.   

In their Digital Blueprint, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) sets out an ambition to create world-leading digital city region. At the heart of their strategy are people, with the core aim to ensure citizens’ lives are improved and empowered by the opportunities that their digitally savvy region offers.  

That’s why we’re delighted to collaborate with GMCA in our latest initiative, Get On Greater Manchester. The new multi-year initiative between GMCA and Microsoft aims to boost the local economy, create new opportunities in the digital and tech sector, while improving diversity in the region.  

Creating opportunity: Addressing access to careers inequality in Greater Manchester 

In my role as General Manager of Customer Success, I oversee the largest technical team in Microsoft UK, and strategic talent decisions are critical to the success of the organisation. Therefore, attracting, developing, and retaining technical talent is a priority for not only myself, but the entire tech industry.

Being a digital city-region with a difference and ensuring an inclusive approach that puts people at the heart of their plans are the key tenets of the GMCA’s Digital Blueprint. The commitment from both GMCA and Microsoft echoes this sentiment, with an ambition to empower Greater Manchester to achieve more, supporting 30,000 people to enter and build careers in the industry over the three-year period.  

One in five vacancies in the region are linked to skills shortages. Together with GMCA, we are passionate about doing digital differently to close the skills gap. We will do this by creating accessible pathways for learners to get into the tech industry, with diversity at the heart of our plan. Our focus is on four key areas: digital skills for economic growth, public service transformation, sustainability and connected places and diversity and inclusion.   

“Greater Manchester is the fastest growing tech hub in Europe, but we need to address the digital skills gap if we really want it to accelerate,” explains Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, GMCA Lead for Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships & Digital.  

“That’s why I’m excited to be working with Microsoft to give thousands of people the skills they need to secure well-paid jobs in the digital economy. Whether through a cybersecurity bootcamp, cloud computing apprenticeship or even just fixing up their CV, this kind of support from business is critical to ensuring people can succeed in the thriving digital and tech sector.”  

Creating belief: Shining a spotlight on the opportunities 

Microsoft will work closely with the GMCA to identify areas where it can provide support and expertise, including the development of new digital training programmes, help for SMEs and startups, and the creation of new digital solutions to address local challenges. 

Education plays a key role, and universities across the region share the goals of Get On Greater Manchester. The University of Salford and University Academy 92 (UA92) are trailblazing in this area, encouraging all their students to take professional certifications such asthe opportunities offered in Degree+ Digital and Microsoft’s Student Certifications. We have a campus onsite at UA92, and are mentoring students, offer work experience programmes and donate devices to groups typically excluded from Higher Education.  

A panel at Microsoft and GMCA Skills Integration Event, with (from left to right) Kelly Humpleby, Marketing Director at Bespoke XYZ, Samuel Stayner, Senior Operations Manager at Catch 22, and Derrick McCourt, General Manager, Customer Solutions Unit at Microsoft UK

Microsoft and GMCA Skills Integration Event Fireside Chat with (from left to right) Kelly Humpleby, Marketing Director, Bespoke XYZ, Samuel Stayner, Senior Operations Manager at Catch 22, and Derrick McCourt, General Manager, Customer Solutions Unit, Microsoft UK

According to research, nearly 80% of employers believe graduates do not arrive fully equipped with the skills they need to be work ready. LinkedIn data shows that members with a Microsoft Professional Certification on their profile are 2.4X more likely to be hired.   

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has had a long running commitment to digital upskilling in the region. “Greater Manchester’s digital sector is thriving, with record levels of investment in 2022,” he explains. “Ensuring everyone in the city region can benefit from the opportunities this investment creates is crucial to securing Greater Manchester’s position as a world leading digital city region.”  

“This partnership with Microsoft will support 30,000 local people to develop the digital skills and confidence they need to pursue digital opportunities. By matching the resources of industry partners with our local schools and colleges we can ensure real local benefits,” Mayor Burnham says. “Collaboration between the public sector, industry and academia is at the heart of our vision for Greater Manchester to become an integrated technical skill city region and is just one example of how we are doing digital differently to deliver the priorities of our Digital Blueprint.”  

With Get on Greater Manchester and the GMCA’s Digital Blueprint, there’s a lot to celebrate. But for Greater Manchester, the excitement continues. As announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, the county is one of 12 investment zones across the UK which will benefit from £80m to invest in skills, infrastructure, tax relief and business rates reduction. And more than that – GMCA will receive new powers to control its local funding.  

Marie Hamilton, Greater Manchester Region Lead for Microsoft, has worked closely with GMCA in developing the Get on Greater Manchester plan. “As the fastest growing tech hub in Europe it’s an exciting time to be in Greater Manchester, this MOU formalises and strengthens our relationship with GMCA,” she says. “Together we will shine a spotlight on the opportunities available within the tech sector, encouraging higher take up of digital careers, improve diversity, and empower more people to benefit from the region’s growth.” 

Employer engagement: The power of apprenticeships  

For early in career talent such as apprentices, career switchers and graduates, it is critical that people are equipped with the right skills to thrive in workplace is a crucial time to ensure that people are equipped for the workplace. Get On Greater Manchester ensures a commitment to ‘Employer Engagement’, which is focused on encouraging greater collaboration between organisations, something that the Greater Manchester Community already excels at.  

Microsoft are an active part of the employer community and are expanding Microsoft support for initiatives such as bootcamps to create accessible and inclusive employment opportunities, as well as programmes like the Apprenticeship Connector — a partnership between GetMyFirstJob and Microsoft to help people find the right opportunity for them. 

Two recent graduates of the Microsoft Apprenticeship scheme are Raj De Silva and Justin Jones, both of whom are now based in Manchester. Jones, an Azure Solutions Sales Specialist, explains: “I moved to Manchester because I wanted something different, and I stayed because I love the city. It’s great for young professionals, particularly in the tech sector and with the investment going into it.”  

Two graduates from the Microsoft Apprentice scheme, Raj De Silva and Justin Jones, present to an audience in Manchester about their experiences.

Two graduates from the Microsoft Apprentice scheme, Raj De Silva and Justin Jones, present to an audience in Manchester about their experiences.

Jones lives with fellow apprentice graduate, Raj De Silva. Inspired by his father who is a doctor, and his brother who has learning difficulties, De Silva wanted to pursue a career with the right intersection between healthcare and tech.  

Now a Healthcare Account Executive for Microsoft, De Silva explains. “When the time came to change role for our apprenticeship, the pandemic was starting. Usually people go to London, but I thought it would be a limited experience at the time and decided to try Manchester instead. I’m so glad I did.” 

“There’s a real buzz about the city,” he says. “There are lots of new independent stores popping up all the time, it feels like a place which is created for small business.”  

When it comes to career opportunities, De Silva has some wise words. “A job in tech isn’t just a job in IT,” he says. “Every industry has tech linked to it in some capacity. And with so many industries investing in Manchester, it’s a fruitful place to be.”