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The unabridged version of my Argus article (23/4/13): Employment growth in the local digital, media & technology sector

Employment growth in the local digital, media & technology sector

Caroline Morris of Wired Sussex

Working for Wired Sussex I’m at the heart of the local digital, media and technology hub. It is my job to help our member companies find the right people with the right skills to grow their businesses.  The digital sector is all about talent and it is one of the strengths of Brighton that talented people do want to be here. Most of the digital companies that Wired Sussex supports are small and many of them are start-ups. They are driven by people who are passionate about creativity and their love of technology. But that doesn’t mean that they know how to draft a job description or what level of salary to pay, or that they have anyone in their company that does. That’s where I can help.

So, what has my work told me about the state of the employment market in digital in Brighton?

The Wired Sussex online Jobs Board is a good place to start. Over the past 12 months, it has seen a healthy 17% increase in jobs posted; 407 different digital, media & technology local companies advertised vacancies, with around 14 new businesses posting a vacancy each month. As the sector here develops and grows, we see individual companies maturing and expanding their employment needs and the wages they are prepared to pay for the right person.  Jose Mendez of Upstream tells a familiar story:

“We have been in business for 9 years now, starting with 3 people in a small room in the Brighton Media Centre in the Old Steine.  In the first 3-4 years recruitment was fairly easy. We were a young company, and in those days most guys we hired were young and most agencies could get away with having generalists. With time and as our list of clients grew and the industry evolved, the need to attract candidates with a specific set of skills became more important. We always use a variety of websites to try and attract those candidates. Many of them bring us volume, but frankly the volume to quality ratio is usually poor. Often time you have to view 15 CVs to see a good one. With Wired Sussex, we don’t have that problem. Being a highly specialised place for all things digital, it has the ability to attract people who have experience in the sector. Our next challenge as an agency, and as we are working with bigger clients,  is to work on becoming more attractive to great candidates, but then again that’s another story “

The need to attract the right people is gradually pushing wage levels up too. A clear majority of roles on our site pay over £25,000 per annum now, which is probably a reasonable rate for someone early in their career. Of course, top notch candidates can attract far more, though many of those people are hard to tempt from the rewards, both financial and otherwise, of the freelance lifestyle. As the reputation of our digital cluster grows nationally, we see more people looking for jobs in the city – sign ups for our online job alerts  has increased by 27% over the past year.  But people are not just tempted by the salary offer. As Stefan Hull of Propellernet told me:

“Over the last 12 months we’ve taken the approach by investing time and money into making Propellernet an agency that people want to be involved in and we are all enjoying the benefits. This approach – earning our right to be a destination of choice for the very best people in the industry and making the lives of our people better has enabled us to grow our team by more than 30% over the last 12 months”

The large number of people who come to the city to go to university and then stay here after graduating should be one of Brighton’s economic strengths. We have also worked with local digital businesses helping them consider recruiting such recent graduates and are pleased that 259 graduate opportunities were advertised by us last year.

At Wired Sussex we’re aware that securing the best and right talent is imperative, and so we’re on hand to offer our advice and support to the sector as well as help form new strategies for talent attraction to the area.  We know that digital in Brighton is thriving and is recognized nationally for what it is achieving. But we also know there is a lot more growth left in the sector and it is fresh talent which is key to that continued growth. As Alastair Digby of Madgex puts it:

“Since Madgex was formed in 2000, we have grown organically to a team of over 50 employees and are very much a part of the vibrant Brighton digital community.  Our international client base is rapidly expanding and we need to ensure that we recruit a highly skilled team to meet the needs of our clients. Brighton boasts a huge and rich variety of digital talent making it the perfect place to base our business.”

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