Great Northern Conference: WANdisco boss says Sheffield needs more than 5,000 tech workers now

Sheffield has more than 5,000 tech vacancies which must be filled fast if it wants to remain competitive, the Great Northern Conference heard.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 12:02 am

David Richards, boss of software firm WANdisco, said the city had to scale up training to meet demand - which is growing at 30 per cent a year - or miss out on growth and prosperity.

Intensive four-month programmes producing ‘oven ready’ workers should be prioritised over four-year degrees which produced graduates unable to ‘step into the job’, he added.

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David Richards, chief executive of WANdisco, at the Great Northern Conference.

Business also had a role to play, and should consider paying for staff training or sponsoring bursaries, he added.

Sheffield has 5,591 tech related vacancies paying an average of £34,000-a-year, new figures show. Nationally, there are 500,000 jobs on offer.

Mr Richards was speaking at the Great Northern Conference at the Cutlers’ Hall, organised by jpimedia and attended by leaders from across the North.

He said: “We have got to scale up very quickly. There are half a million jobs available in the UK today. We can’t spend three or four years, we have to do it now or the country won’t remain competitive.”

The Great Northern Conference held at Cutlers' Hall Hospitality, Church Street, Sheffield City Centre, Sheffield. Date: 28th October 2021. Picture James Hardisty.

Mr Richards has launched EyUp!, a digital academy aimed at producing data scientists. The first eight-strong cohort will graduate in December and all the students will get jobs ‘straight away’, he said.

It is one of several in the city including The Developer Academy running intensive short courses.

He added: “There is more demand than you can shake a stick at.”

Mr Richards also called for free internet for ‘every single house’ in the country and lamented the ‘digital divide’ which left four out of 10 schools without all the devices they need.

The Great Northern Conference held at Cutlers' Hall Hospitality, Church Street, Sheffield City Centre, Sheffield. Pictured Anne Longfield, CBE, Former Children's Commissioner For England. Date: 28th October 2021. Picture James Hardisty.

He added: “It is vitally important. If we had a policy that treated digital the same as a utility we wouldn’t have this problem.”

During the pandemic, The Star teamed up with WANdisco on the Laptops for Kids scheme, with partners including Twinkl, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, Dell and the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire.

At the time, some 10,000 people in Sheffield did not have access to a device to continue their education during lockdown.

To date, some 15,000 laptops have been donated and distributed, and the project has expanded into areas including Barnsley, Doncaster and Newcastle.

Join the debate on how best to grow the economy and build a greener, fairer, equal future for the North and hear from our noteable cast of keynote speakers at the Great Northern Conference