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Amelia Bampton Engagement Manager

AI, EE Life Tue 5th March, 2024

Return-to-work strategies, demand for AI skills and more: Highlights from Manchester Digital Skills Festival 2024

It was great to be back at the Manchester Digital, Digital Skills Festival (DSF) annual event this February 5 – 9. Running for over a decade, this is a key event in the calendar, which really kickstarts the busy schedule of tech events, conferences and meet-ups for the year.

2024 is looking like another interesting year – not just for tech as a whole, but for the tech industry in Manchester. As Katie Gallagher, Managing Director of Manchester Digital stated in the welcome comments of the programme, “This year will be a pivotal year for technology, with huge advancements made in AI and other fast-growing tech noticeably changing the way our businesses are working.”

The DSF agenda covered a range of events and topics across five days. Starting with a conference day on Monday, Tuesday saw a Discovering Digital Apprenticeships event for aspiring apprentices in the morning, and Discovering Apprenticeships for employers in the afternoon. Wednesday was the hugely popular Talent day, and Digital Her was on Thursday. The week was rounded off with Professional Development day on Friday.

Navigating the future of tech: Return-to-work strategies and the demand for AI skills

The festival started with a packed agenda on Monday. There was a selection of talks and panel discussions, including a keynote on ‘understanding the past to predict the future of the digital skills economy’ by ECOM Managing Director, Rob Sugden. This had us all reflecting on the interesting, yet sometimes turbulent, times of the recent years in the tech industry as a result of the economy, and thinking about how to use these trends to ‘predict’ the future. With an estimated 65% of businesses planning to increase their use of contingent workers in their return-to-work strategy, along with demand for specific skills, it’s no surprise that AI comes out on top, with data and security also ranking highly. It was discussed that what we can’t see just yet is exactly what those AI skills will look like; it’s a fast-evolving sector and top of the agenda for many businesses. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of change in demand within this space in 2024.

It was also great to hear how large, well-known and respected tech giants in Manchester have evolved their wellbeing strategy and how they’re ‘evolving to navigate a whole new set of challenges in a post-pandemic workplace.’

Building a thriving tech ecosystem

Manchester Digital says the festival “celebrates our fast-moving, thriving and innovative tech ecosystem. We bring together businesses, policy makers, the education sector and the tech and talent of tomorrow to showcase opportunities around tech careers and look at how we can grow our regional tech economy” – and I couldn’t agree more. The DSF, in my experience, has never failed to bring together the people and companies associated with the Greater Manchester tech ecosystem, and find a balance between old and new. There are established Manchester tech companies sharing their journeys and stories, and opportunities for people to find their first role in tech in Manchester – finding a perfect harmony across the different ends of the tech industry spectrum.

As a result, you will always go away from the festival not only having connected with friends and colleagues of old, but having met someone and learnt something new. Which, in my opinion, is the sign of a great event!