Digital recruitment: where is Britain’s fastest growing tech hub?

Off the top of your head can you guess where Britain’s fastest growing technology hub is located?

East London? Manchester? Cambridge? Liverpool?

Nope, it’s none of those places. According to this year’s Tech Nation report, Bournemouth is by some distance the fastest-expanding tech cluster in the country. Between 2013 and 2014, it saw a 212% rise in new tech companies forming. It’s growing nearly twice as fast as Liverpool, its nearest rival.

Aside from excellent broadband infrastructure and cheap rents, one of the main drivers of Bournemouth’s growth has been access to a large (and constantly replenishing) pool of talent for their digital recruitment.

The city benefits from a supply of graduates from local universities, particularly from the National Centre for Computing Animation at Bournemouth University.

Furthermore, 69% of tech companies in the area cited access to talent as one of the main benefits in setting up there. And 83% talked about the existence of a network of entrepreneurs in the area willing to share ideas and expertise.

Elsewhere across the UK, one-third of survey respondents considered a lack of access to local talent as one of the biggest barriers to growth. As headhunters, we are far from surprised by this. We’re veterans of recruiting high-level digital decision-makers in locations as diverse as Portsmouth, Wolverhampton and Derbyshire. None of these places can lay claim to an overflowing source of digital talent, but like media businesses everywhere, they need talent if they’re going to compete nationally and internationally.

For a lot of media businesses, access to talent is a serious problem. While the digital scene is less London-centric than it once was, the pull of the capital is still sizeable, and it’s difficult to persuade people to leave.

There are other factors at play, however: London may have unrivalled buzz, but it’s increasingly expensive and living in the capital is clearly not for everyone.

For firms outside London looking to hire serious digital talent, it may be worth accentuating the lifestyle factors in a move elsewhere: why not tell candidates how they can get more for their money in terms of housing, about the joys of a quieter life, about the access to green space and fresh air? These factors matter to a lot of people, and they’re in short supply in the capital.

But just because your business is outside of London, don’t expect to necessarily hire staff on the cheap. To ensure you’re getting the best people, you may still need to benchmark against London salaries.

More generally, if recruiting is going to continue to be a struggle, particularly at senior level, you’ll need people who can create a culture of education and best practise, people who can turn your organisation into a centre of excellence, the sort of place where people will want to go to learn.