With the news that Silicon Roundabout is to boost from a £50m government investment and is expected to become the hub of the UK digital economy within the next five years, London has been firmly cemented as the vibrant capital for digital jobs.
A recent report by Demos showed the £34bn industry boasts over 3,200 companies – 1,300 alone in the Tech City ‘cluster’ - 48,000 digital jobs in London and has grown rapidly since its foundations were laid around the Old Street and Shoreditch area of London in the late 1990s to become a central part of the country’s economic future.
Social media, affiliate marketing, SEO and PPC are just a few of the techniques that have risen with the growth of digital marketing and the good news is job seekers probably have more skills than they think.
Harry Fowler, business development director at recruitment company Cogs Agency, with offices in London, Europe and Hong Kong, indicated where the opportunities lie: “There is demand for niche technology skills from agencies but there is a shortfall of these candidates who want to work permanently. Examples are Python, Django, Drupal and ASP.Net.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts inner east London will benefit from a 31 per cent increase in employment by 2031 while inner west London can expect a rise of just 9 per cent. By 2016, London will likely have reclaimed its status as the fastest growing region in the country.
Number 10 has demonstrated its commitment to developing the industry in Tech City, with the government’s technology strategy board investing £2m into a Tech City Launchpad competition in 2011, and the recent announcement of a £50m injection into the Silicon Roundabout itself. David Cameron announced plans to create “Europe’s largest civic space”, hosting classrooms and workshops equipped with the latest 3D printing technology.
The private sector is also investing; Microsoft plans to create a technology development centre in Tech City and the company is working on an apprenticeship which would help young people in the area. Skills Matter has announced $5m will be spent on providing more opportunities to its developer community of 35,000 members, who work towards writing improved software.
The level of investment is justified by the growth of the digital market in London and the rising job opportunities. The majority of Google’s revenue comes from PPC and the 2012 UK search engine marketing benchmark report showed 49% of digital marketers and agencies planned to increase PPC budgets over the next 12 months, 57% intended to raise budgets for SEO and almost two thirds intended to spend more on social media overall. Latest industry figures show Facebook has 693m monthly active users while Twitter has 288m, although Twitter is currently growing at a faster rate than its main rival.
Specialised roles have been created as the importance of digital media has been recognised. Traditionally these roles may have been add-ons to positions in media and marketing. For those already in, or who have worked in, the industry the chances are they already have many of the relevant to skills, requiring only to develop and sell them.
Mark Hadfield, senior planner at London-based digital agency Weapon 7, said: “My advice for people wanting to break into digital would be to demonstrate that you are ambitious, not egotistical; experimental, not a risk taker; and channel neutral, not single-minded.
“Despite operating within the digital sector, we don’t just want people who purely focus on digital. It's essential they have an innate understanding of digital technologies - how consumers are engaging with digital technologies, and how brands can harness these trends - but their thinking should not be constrained by this,” added Hadfield.
For those working in industry and looking for the next challenge, opportunities are thick and fast. Developing the technical know-how will keep job hunters at the front of the race, while developing new and exciting marketing strategies based on industry trends will bring more attention. Being ahead of the game is key; it’s vital to constantly build skills base and have an awareness of what customers/clients are looking for and responding to.
Hadfield also highlighted the importance of building contacts: “Networking is a great way of breaking into the industry or developing your career. Meet people. Chat. Debate. Learn. Have an opinion.”