A £3m fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership will be used to fund projects aimed at getting under-represented groups into digital.

The fund, part of the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund, will go to 14 projects that are aimed at helping more than 600 residents in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area to create accessible routes into digital roles.

The fund is aimed specifically at helping under-represented or disadvantaged groups into tech roles by helping the development of projects to support businesses and residents plug local skills gaps in creative, digital and tech roles.

Digital minister Caroline Dinenage said: “We are investing heavily to boost people’s digital skills, which are more important than ever in these times. We want everyone to be able to seize the opportunities that our world-class digital sectors bring. It is fantastic to see this new funding targeting innovative schemes that will make a real difference to people’s lives in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.”

The UK suffers from a technology skills gap, with not enough skilled workers available to fill organisations’ digital needs, a problem that many people think will be exacerbated by Brexit.

In an effort to address skills gaps in the Manchester area, six projects have already received funding in the first round of the initiative, supporting more than 200 Greater Manchester residents to find a digital, tech or creative career.

One project, called Tech Returners, was given round one funding for a programme called Your Journey into Tech, which helped people enter or return to the tech industry after a career break.

The 14 new projects chosen to receive help from the fund are:

Despite about 40% of UK tech talent residing in the London bubble, other cities across the UK, such as Manchester, have thriving technology scenes which many are trying to develop.

The Fast Track Fund was developed to help people acquire the digital skills needed by employers, which are in high demand the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area.

Steve Fogg, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, highlighted the important role that digital skills will play across “all key sectors” in the region, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the coronavirus pandemic means the Fast Track Fund is “more important than ever”.

“In the current climate, this fund is more important than ever,” he said. “This pandemic has highlighted the real importance of digital skills and technology, and digital will be a vital element in how we ‘build back better’.

“In Greater Manchester, our ambition is to be recognised as a world-leading digital city region. This fund helps bridge the digital skills gaps across our city-region and build a diverse talent pool in Greater Manchester, to ensure local businesses have access to the highly skilled workers they need.”

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