The traditional coal and steel industries of Wales were once the bedrock of the Welsh economy. Today, Cardiff and Swansea are two of the UK's fastest growing tech cities due to investment in both graduate opportunities and the digital transformation of the country.
As a rival to nearby Bristol, South Wales is a booming digital tech sector thanks to robust infrastructure, tech courses offered by institutes like Cardiff University and Swansea University and a competitive cost of living. As graduates flock to London where competition is fierce and the cost of living high, South Wales provides a good alternative.
Graduates staffing the boom.
The UK’s tech industry has the highest investment of any European country, with digital tech investment estimated to £6.8 billion in 2016. In a recent review of the two Welsh cities by Randstad, the investment in the region has a symbiotic relationship with the education sector, with input from four major universities: Cardiff University, the University of South Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swansea University.
The universities provide a steady flow of IT-literate graduates to support the growing industry requirements. Out of the four major universities, Swansea University is ranked 16th in the UK for graduate employment in the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
The computer science degree at Swansea University ranks 22nd in the country and Cardiff University has an active computer society. Students are sought after by local employers as they have the theory behind the computer programmes that have such a huge impact on almost every aspect of our lives.
Not only do students study the theory of software and software systems, they also learn how to design, develop, and apply such technologies, becoming top-class problem solvers in the process.
Cardiff University’s National Software Academy is producing work-ready software engineering graduates. The University of South Wales, in collaboration with Innovation Point, has launched the National Cyber Security Academy to educate highly-skilled cyber security graduates for the future. Cardiff and Swansea snapshot: 17,471 digital jobs and 103 startup births.
The digital staff requirements in the tech sector are growing overall across the UK, adding to the existing 1.64 million tech jobs. Swansea and Cardiff are on track to becoming the leading tech employees, rivalling nearby Bristol.
Last year £4.6 billion (68%) of the UK’s tech investment was spent in regions outside the capital. Cardiff and Swansea have 17,470 tech jobs and last year recorded 103 new tech and digital start-ups such as AMPLYFI using artificial intelligence for data mining.
Networking and workspaces to nurture start-ups.
Techhub Swansea provides office space for tech entrepreneurs with networking and lunch and learn events as part of the working landscape. Cardiff have similar innovation support with the Tramshed supporting its co-working community. Additionally, the ease of booking deskspace at the tech indycube hub, available across Wales, nurtures the community.
They also provide a programme of events and serve free Welsh coffee. The Alacrity Foundation, Cardiff Start and the launch of Innovation Point’s Welsh Technology accelerator programme named ‘Digital Dozen’ are three programmes all aimed at supporting tech growth.
Lifestyle and location.
Swansea and Cardiff have great road and rail links to both London and Bristol. Swansea is three hours by train from London, and Cardiff just over 2 hours. As a lifestyle choice both cities are a 30 minute drive from areas of outstanding national beauty like the Gower Penninula and the Brecon Beacons. The house prices are also under the UK average, at £185,639, with sea views in Swansea being a common feature. With cheaper rents than London and the South East, eventually getting on the property ladder seems more in reach.
How Wales is funding the tech boom.
The broadband connectivity across Wales is part the Welsh Government Scheme to ensure “superfast” broadband to support innovation and growth, not just in the major cities but across South East region. Development Bank of Wales is planning to bolster Welsh businesses with £1 billion of new funding and unique investment projects such as the Compound Semiconductor.
Applications Catapult in Cardiff, launched in 2016. This investment aims to fund innovative regional projects. On the strength of the Swansea University IT programme, Swansea Bay City Region has secured a £500 million deal to turn the region into a digital super hub.
So while graduations are taking place across the UK and memories of Glastonbury are a blast in the past, for tech graduates looking to get their first full time job then Wales could be the place to be. After all getting on the housing ladder might just be a little more in reach.