How to get a job in digital: Programmers in demand as Leeds hub occupancies double

Despite an activity and jobs dip in the area's financial and legal markets, the digital and creative sectors are bringing strong business and digital jobs opportunities to Leeds, according to Creative Space Management director Paul Taylor.

Director of CSM: Paul Taylor (picture courtesy of Roger Moody)

Taylor's property management company was recently re-appointed as the managing and lettings agent by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for three of the agency's key commercial developments - the Tower Works, the Round Foundry Media Centre and the Advance Manufacturing Park Technology Centre in Rotherham.

"It's an interesting market; it's been well known for its financial and legal sector, both of which in the last few years have seen a bit of slippage," explained Taylor. "People forget that there actually is a big creative and digital technology sector in Leeds and quite a big pharmaceutical sector.

"One of the first spaces established for providing services to those clusters was one to the south of the city centre, in what became known as Holbeck Urban Village."

Holbeck Urban Village is among several areas which have undergone redevelopment in Leeds. The Tower Works - which Creative Space Management will continue to work on - quickly filled its creative and digital industries-targeted occupancy to 80 per cent after opening in July 2012. Creative Space management has doubled occupancy at key sites in the Leeds region since 2006 with an unusually hands-on supportive approach to customers' business growth.

Widespread investment into regenerating the area has resulted in better job prospects for residents. However, Taylor explained that companies in the area are finding certain skills more of a challenge to find and are beginning to look further afield, indicating a niche that Leeds-based digital jobseekers could move into.

"What I'm being told is that on the technical side of things high level programming skills are getting more difficult to find, and I know from speaking to a local company that they're having to attract those people in now from a wider range," said Taylor. "There isn't enough of those skills in the local economy."

"In the face of generally everything going the wrong way we are seeing some positivity in the digital and creative jobs market, it does seem quite fluid and I think very talented people are sought after."

It's estimated that the around 13,600 jobs in Leeds are provided by the digital and creative industries, with creative businesses in the city accounting for more than half of those in West Yorkshire. The creative industries generate around £60m in annual turnover and enquiries for business premises in the area have risen by nine per cent.

"Holbeck Urban Village is an interesting one because it takes quite a long while to get to critical mass," Taylor continued. "Previously it was made up of derelict buildings - which were originally gems of the industrial revolution, fantastic buildings and fantastic spaces where some revolutionary activity occurred.

"Ten years ago this area started to become regentrified but these things take a bit of time, it's a slow process and it takes a while to reach critical mass but I think that's beginning to happen now.

"With a hundred companies based in this area and more than a thousand people working here - the majority of those in the creative and digital sector or related vertical supply chains - it becomes generative, you get more people wanting to locate around that. It's been a massive benefit to this area and I think it has to be a benefit to Leeds city region."

As well as Holbeck Urban Village, New Dock and the Tower Works, digital hotspots have sprung up in other Leeds city regions, namely Chapel Allerton and Moortown, adding further to a strengthening digital and creative jobs market in the region.

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