Digital Matters: Locate Isle of Man

28 March 2019

The Isle of Man’s digital economy is on the rise, and it’s something we should all be very proud of. The digital prospects of our small Island continue to rival those of larger jurisdictions, an extraordinary triumph that has cultivated trust and respect from our peers.

But as the landscape of business evolves to be more digitally focused, new challenges continue to present themselves, prompting the rapid advancement in the skillsets of digital workforces.

The future of the digital world will require flexible and transferable talents such as problem-solving and cross-sector working, as more traditional functional skillsets become outdated. It’s clear that digital skills are no longer the optional extras to include on one’s CV; they’ve quickly become the basic foundations of all that we do, from the way we communicate to our consumer habits, and this is expected to shift even further.

This isn’t an issue faced solely by the Isle of Man: on the contrary, it’s a shortage on a national scale. Research has found that the British Isles are not producing enough young people with the skills to meet the needs of employers, and skills development will need to continually evolve to keep pace with international competitors.

Financial Services and eGaming are significant contributors to the Island’s economy, and the growth in these sector’s businesses dictates an increased demand from the talent pool in which workers are sourced. What’s wonderful about this growth is the exciting opportunities for young people to have a fundamental role in the evolution of our digital economy.

As a generation who have grown up with the internet and technology as readily available, there’s a native talent in the digital realm that their predecessors do not possess. This advantage is an asset, and we should be doing everything we can to harness this instilled understanding of digital platforms.

Upskilling, whether that be on Island or through relocation, is imperative for the progression of the Isle of Man, as with business relocation comes inward investment, indigenous growth and diversification. If we wish for the Island to continue its pioneering and trailblazing through the digital path less travelled, then we must welcome change with open arms.

Locate Isle of Man recently released an ambitious strategy for facilitating the growth in the economically active population, and whilst it has always been the Department for Enterprise’s priority to ensure continued opportunities to our residents, it is clear that promoting the Isle of Man to a wider audience is paramount to the mutual progression of both businesses and the Island.

The strategy acknowledges that the digital and ICT sectors are key areas for activity, and that the inability to fill existing vacancies is the single biggest issue reported from industries and through our Executive Agencies: it is an unavoidable truth that growing the economically active population would provide the single biggest boost to our economy.

The strategy outlines statistics from a recent Business Confidence Survey, with 1 in 3 of the Island’s employers surveyed admitting that a ‘shortage of labour’ was limiting their growth, with 54% of respondents expecting to increase their workforce in the next twelve months.

Whilst this indicates that the economy is in a strong position, it also suggests that now is a timely opportunity to attract suitably skilled workers to the Island.

With this in mind, Locate Isle of Man has been forging ahead with fundamental initiatives to support and encourage the upward trajectory of new and start-up businesses.

Business Connex, a partnership between the Department for Enterprise and the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, is one such service that launched in December 2018. Not only does the initiative work closely with the business community, it also acts as a point of contact for new business and individuals enquiring about relocation to the Island.

Business Connex has developed from a nascent idea into a fundamental staple in business development. Its aim is to provide support and assistance to new businesses and start-ups on the Island, guiding them through the liminal stages of establishment and setup with its concierge-angled operation.

The announcement of the National Insurance Holiday Scheme (which enables new and returning residents who relocate to the Isle of Man to claim back up to £4,000 of their NI contribution in their first year of working) is another complementary initiative that has been established to further attract new business and residents.

The scheme aims to attract skilled workers to the Island with favourable financial incentives, as well as encouraging the return of Isle of Man students looking to relocate back to the Isle. Next month sees the inaugural Isle of Man Graduate Fair take place, which aims to connect returning Manx graduates with local businesses who have employment opportunities or who are offering graduate fast-track and apprenticeship schemes.

There are also many leads geared towards upskilling at an education level. This year’s budget announced that £400,000 has been earmarked for preparing a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) block at Queen Elizabeth II High School. Outside of schools, the Island is providing ample initiatives for people to upskill and cope with the demands of the digital revolution.

Love Tech is a scheme which aims to empower young women with the opportunities to explore STEM through special events, educational support and mentorship.

The not-for-profit scheme integrates seamlessly with a number of local youth clubs. The Code Club is one such entity that provides a focal point for people of all ages to develop digital skills, from cybersecurity to coding, from a pool of business leaders and technologist volunteers. It’s a fast-track introduction to the digital world which offers a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of coding.

It’s evident that steps are being taken to strengthen the breadth of expertise of the Island’s workforce. We have an Island to be proud of, which offers safety, an excellent quality of life and a rewarding economy with many number of job opportunities immediately available for skilled workers. We need to ensure that we best demonstrate our available jobs to the right workers, in the right places, and at the right time.

The Isle of Man Graduate Fair takes place on Wed 17th April 2019. Register for free at:

Andrew Stewart is Head of Strategy and Policy at the Department for Enterprise.