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LSIF: Introduction to the Digital Project

Written on 8th May 2024

Our nine General Further Education colleges recently secured over £8.4m of funding from the Government’s Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) to help address the skills gap across Greater Manchester.

GMColleges developed a response to the government’s Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), focusing on key sector areas, one of which was digital.

What is the Digital Project?

GMColleges nine General Further Education Colleges are working to deliver a digital programme which brings industry and education together to help tackle challenges, create opportunities and ensure the sector’s continued success across Greater Manchester. The aims of the Digital Project are:

  • Support more learners to develop digital skills to progress in the digital sector
  • Develop short courses for upskilling / reskilling leading to greater HTQ engagement especially in relation to AI, Cybersecurity, VR and robotics
  • Promote careers in the tech industry with a focus on the most deprived neighbourhoods leading to an increased uptake in digital courses from these communities
  • Develop staff skills to utilise new technologies in teaching

Why is the project important for Greater Manchester?

The Greater Manchester Digital Strategy highlights 8,000 digital and digital-intense creative businesses in the region which employ over 82,000 people1. While this industry is going from strength to strength, the Greater Manchester LSIP found that 63% of Manchester’s businesses are experiencing skills shortages2. With the digital sector generating £4.1bn of economic growth annually1, it is vital that employers have a highly trained workforce with the specific technical skills needed to develop the industry further.

Not only do we need people with the right skills, but we also need a diverse talent pool for employers to choose from. Only 27% of female students would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% say it is their first choice4. Meanwhile, only 25% of tech workers belong to ethnic minority groups5. It’s important to have a workforce that is ethnically diverse, neuro diverse and inclusive of all genders and abilities to ensure that the technology created in the future has input from all groups that are representative within society. 

Through our digital project, we aim to raise awareness of digital skills and career pathways across all groups within our region. We hope that through our activity we can create a more equal and accessible sector that provides opportunities for progression within Manchester’s bustling digital industry. 

How is the investment being spent?

The funds will support a raft of staff CPD events in partnership with Manchester Digital and Cisco looking at a range of topics including Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Virtual and Augmented Reality and digital innovation and insights.

The capital investment has been used to fund 50 Cisco Bundles, 6 new Cisco learning facilities, 6 new Cisco Networking Academies, 100 laptops, over 90 raspberry pies, 4 robotics and Microsoft Office Specialist training software licenses for up to 125 learners.


One  pivotal partnership is with Manchester Digital, a well established, non profit, tech association which aims to foster innovation and collaboration. With over twenty years supporting the region’s industry, Manchester Digital is playing a key role in bringing together regional businesses with our colleges, from SMEs to global organisations with a Greater Manchester presence.

The team at Manchester Digital have organised key events for college staff and learners and Greater Manchester businesses to help deliver a more collaborative approach for all stakeholders with the region’s digital industry. The events covered a range of topics including Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual & Augmented Reality and Virtual Learning.

Emma Grant, Head of Talent and Skills at Manchester Digital explained, “Employer input allows us to understand the skills gaps and current trends within the sector, while offering their expertise and advice as guest speakers across a variety of events. 

“They also help the Greater Manchester college teams to bring the digital curriculum to life, and raise awareness of the exciting careers and pathways available across the digital sector.”

The project is also being supported by Cisco, a US based tech company best known for its high quality networking products and software. 

Cisco is playing a key role in supporting our nine Greater Manchester Colleges to implement digital innovation through its range of learning tools and resources and via its Networking Academy. This will provide students access to courses that deliver hands-on opportunities to learn skills through simulation software for real world application. 

What’s next?

The project aims to create a positive legacy for change within the sector, laying the foundations to create and celebrate a diverse pool of talent with the technical skills to thrive in careers across the industry. 

Beyond the project, we want to continue to build and connect with businesses across the region and ensure we have long term relationships with employers to continue understanding the changes within the industry.

Mark Harris, Vice Dean and Vice Principal of UCEN Manchester commented, “It has been amazing to see the collaboration from across the colleges and partners to bring this project to life. Collectively, we are all focused on serving our communities by delivering a strong higher technical offer that will help develop the talent pipeline required to meet the increasing demand for digital skills across Greater Manchester.

“We will focus on creating agile and responsive digital courses and curriculums influenced by industry and the big tech employers of the future. Key to achieving this will be developing courses that extend beyond the classroom, providing students with the chance to apply skills in real world professional settings. This will ensure that students are ready to access the economic opportunities that the digital industry has to offer upon completion of their studies.”  





4 PwC UK

5 Tech Talent Charter