Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. That’s what I have often been told. We’ve been telling a story about the North East and the technical industry. It is about the number of jobs that the sector carries. We’ve been saying that there are thirty thousand jobs and two thousand vacancies. The number was based upon some science and has gathered a degree of truth but we’re not absolutely certain.
If we are going to tell our story well then we need to be convinced of the numbers on which it is based.
We need to know if there are more jobs than the number or fewer and so we’ve got a small team together to start to think about how we gather the information. We’ve given ourselves the grandiose title of the Dynamo Intelligence Theme. We’ve met twice now.
We have set ourselves a fairly simple task. At least it seemed that way on the face of it. We want to identify the number of people who work in the Information and Communication Technology industry in the North East as well as the number of students who are studying a computing related qualification.
And that was when we hit the buffers.
How can you identify whether someone works in tech or not? There are so many variables. If you work for a tech firm, such as Sage or HP, does that mean that you work in the industry? If you work in a firm that doesn’t do tech but you do, are you in or out? If you are a teacher teaching students in a computing related subject do we count you or not?
Then there was the thorny issue of what we meant by the North East. Do we mean the area covered by the seven Local Authorities from the Tweed to the Wear, or do we include the Teesside authorities’ area as well? There are already a few groups working on this problem but each has a different geographical interest. Some are considering the North as an entity, while others are considering the two Local Enterprise Partnerships separately. Some are only considering specific cities and ignoring their surrounding hinterlands. Everyone has a different set of measurements. It is all very confusing. No wonder such a feat has never been accurately achieved.
So in the end this is the proposal that we settled on. We are going to consider the North East as the twelve Local Authority areas though we will split it into the two Local enterprise Partnerships.
If a company’s prime output is a tech product (e.g. coding, hosting, hardware suppliers) then we will count all of their people as working in tech. If the prime output is a creative tech product (e.g., web design, gaming) then we’ll count all of them as well. It will be the same with organisations whose prime focus is tech but not an output (e.g. consultancy firms working in tech).
Where a company’s prime output is not tech but they have a tech resource employed (e.g. manufacturing, distribution, retail, local authorities) then we’re only going to count those people in that department. As for students we’re going to count everyone who is studying for a tech related qualification, all the way from GCSE to a post grad. We’ll count teachers as well.
Hopefully we can all agree to this and then we can get on with the counting.