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2.3 million digital workers required by 2020 to power the UK’s digital economy

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  • Low level of digital job creation puts Northern Powerhouse at risk
  • O2 and St Helens Council partner to maximise digital growth opportunities

The O2 Digital Hub, St Helens: Britain will need 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential, according to fresh research published by O2 today. Promisingly, British business has already created and filled 846,000 digital posts in the past two years. However, an additional 766,000 digital jobs are to be created between now and 2020, demonstrating that the economy is no way near digital maturity and further action must be taken if the UK is to capitalise on the growth opportunity in the digital economy.

Significantly, the research predicts that the benefits of the digital economy will still be felt predominantly in London and the South East. Of the 766,000 jobs being created almost half (47%) will be based in the region, while just eight per cent will be created in the North West and East of England – the two areas with the next highest level of digital job creation.

To inspire people and businesses outside of the nation’s capital to make the most of the digital opportunity, O2 has launched an ambitious Digital Communities pilot in St. Helens. It is designed to show how connectivity can help communities across the country to prosper whether by harnessing young digital talent, boosting entrepreneurship or helping existing businesses grow.

Speaking at the launch of the O2 and St Helens Digital Communities pilot, O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd said: “It’s promising to see so many digital jobs being created and filled in the past two years but we can’t get complacent. The economy is nowhere near digital maturity and worryingly the opportunities that are being created, are predominantly in the South.

“We’re committed to playing our part – which is why we’ve launched an ambitious partnership with St Helens Council to show other communities what’s possible. By helping analogue businesses go digital and matching local businesses with the digital talent on their doorstep, we are creating a blueprint for other communities up and down the country so the entire nation can feel the benefits of the UK’s growing digital economy. We’re working towards a Digital Britain, and we’re starting in St Helens.”

Activities within the pilot include:

  • Digital Makeovers for businesses: Offering free consultations and technology to take analogue businesses digital to help them grow
  • A Digital Skills Exchange: Matching local businesses with the young digital talent on their doorstep – helping businesses to fulfil their skills needs while offering local young people the chance to put their digital skills into practice and gain valuable workplace experience
  • O2 Think Big grant giveaway: Offering 30 £300 grants and mentoring to young entrepreneurs from the area to help kick-start turning their digital ideas into reality
  • Community Hackathon: Helping the St Helens community to find and build the digital solutions to fix existing community challenges
  • Over 60 workshops in the O2 digital hub: Including everything from digital careers clinics to social media surgeries for SMBs, coding clubs and online safety sessions for parents.

St Helen’s Council Leader, Barrie Grunewald said: “Making St Helens a more digitally savvy community has been a vision for some time now, so for it to become a reality is fantastic. This is a huge step forward in bringing St Helens into the digital age and will be a real benefit for residents and local businesses alike.”

Michelle Mone, who is leading a government review into entrepreneurship and small businesses said: “It is really encouraging to see that partnerships between organisations like O2 and St Helens Council are being forged to foster an environment where the entrepreneurial and digital skills of everyone in society can be activated. I look forward to hearing the results of the pilot, and seeing businesses and citizens in St Helens thrive.”

The research, commissioned by O2 and conducted by Development Economics, is an update on the landmark 2013 report which highlighted that an additional 750,000 jobs for digitally skilled workers would be created by 2017. Due to the growth of the British economy since 2013, of which digital is playing a key role in driving, this figure has now been reforecast to 1.1 million additional digital jobs by 2017.