In July 2022 Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), in partnership with FutureDotNow, hosted a senior leader’s roundtable to focus on the ‘hidden middle’ – the c. 23.4 million people in the UK who are online but lack the Essential Digital Skills (EDS) for work defined by the Department for Education.

The roundtable was hosted by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and was attended by senior leaders from the public, private and community sectors from the region. The event aimed to gather commitment to collectively tackle the divide in EDS across Greater Manchester (GM). It provided an opportunity to share good practice from other businesses leading in this area, seek support from across the region to advocate for the importance of digital skills. it also encouraged senior leaders to think about collective opportunities to support the region’s workforce to thrive and support Greater Manchester businesses with a resilient, safe and productive workforce.

GMCA already had a significant digital programme and provision around digital skills training, utilising funding flexibilities of devolution to extend the digital skills offer. However, the event helped highlight an area of digital skills need that was not as well understood and which was quickly introduced into GMCA’s digital plans. 

Following the event, Mayor Andy Burnham said:

“The Insights shared in the Unpacking the hidden middle report and today’s discussion have changed my impressions. It’s everyone that needs support to build their digital skills.

“We need a collective response, reflecting the importance of tackling the hidden middle to ensuring our people reach their potential and our businesses thrive. Greater Manchester will lead the way in empowering its residents and businesses to access digital skills opportunities and support. We are committed to ensuring our people and businesses are enabled to play their part in developing a talent pipeline that is diverse and resilient.”

Andy Burnham

Mayor, Greater Manchester Combine Authority

Since the event GMCA has allocated its Joint Head of Digital Policy as the programme lead responsible for overseeing the introduction of an EDS focus across three key areas:

  • Skills provision across the region, ensuring appropriate provision exists to address the 20 Essential Digital Skills for Work, as defined by the EDS Framework.
  • GMCA leading by example by looking at how GMCA’s own workforce are being supported to increase its EDS.
  • Employer engagement across the region’s businesses, with the support and reach of partners such as the Good Employment Charter.

Regular programme meetings bring together all project leads for these three areas, to share learning and progress. FutureDotNow provides support and guidance, helping to connect the team to learning and other partners, as well as share GMCA’s learning with other regions.

Councillor O’Brien, Education, Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital says, “Working with FutureDotNow has brought an external perspective to our work on digital skills that has helped us to reflect on our local offer, assets and organisational practise.