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Smart Policy = Smart Place = Smart Economy

Vodafone report highlights importance of local digital policy in driving growth.

Vodafone recently published a report entitled “Brain Gain: How to attract, retain and reconnect digital talent”, that examines how regions across the UK can attract and retain digital talent and jobs.

At the heart of the report is an attempt to understand why over 100,000 people have left the regions they lived and studied in within six months of graduating in order to start work elsewhere, with London as the main beneficiary (according to data from the Higher Education Statistical Agency) – and identify ways in which regions could reverse this trend.

  1. The report, which involved interviews with industry and representatives from local government (including Tees Valley, West Midlands and Greater Manchester combined authorities), outlines three areas of digital policy which needs more focus in order to deliver on the benefits of the next industrial revolution;
  2. The need to develop the stock of digital talent. People are the cornerstone of a successful digital economy, and growing the stock of digital talent is fundamental to the adoption and use of new technologies. ‘Brain gain’ policies are needed to attract, retain and reconnect digital talent to local labour markets (see box, below).
  3. The need to collect quality data and make it accessible. Good data can aid the design of policy and can unlock innovation, allowing policymakers to respond to facts and not opinions. Without data, the full range of possibilities of emerging digital technologies will not be realised.
    The need to upgrade digital infrastructure. National and local government needs to be empowered and encouraged to support the roll out of gigabit capable infrastructure. The UK needs to be more ambitious if it is to take advantage of the technology that can revolutionise how households, offces, classrooms and hospitals work.

To illustrate the extent of the skills challenge; 32% of graduates who came from London, but went to university elsewhere in the country, returned to London to work after finishing their course. By way of contrast, only 15% of graduates who came from the North East and went to university outside of the region went back to work in the North East region after finishing their course.

The report highlights how regions and places need to be far better at attracting and retaining talent by attracting what is calls ‘brain gain’ policies. These include;

  • A national and local audit of unused or underused public sector buildings which could be converted into low-cost offices for digital start-ups
  • A commitment by universities to allow their students to use their buildings to start-up a business for 12 months after graduation
  • Allowing Apprenticeship Levy funds to be used for retraining and upskilling returners – people who have been on a career break, often due to caring responsibilities, and would like to return to work.


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