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Manchester’s Tech Growth: A Year in Review

Posted: 18 Dec 2015

Northern Powerhouse (the government’s proposal to boost economic growth in the North) has become something of a political buzzword ever since it was uttered four times during George Osborne’s 2015 Budget speech on 18th March. We can’t deny that we, the city of Manchester, have jumped on the old lingo bandwagon too; however, casting a weary eye over the year gone by, we also can’t deny that there is a lot of great stuff to shout about this northern city.

In early 2015, Tech North was launched as part of the Northern Futures project, which was developed by then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to facilitate the debate around decentralisation and economic growth in the North. With a special focus on seven cities in northern England – Manchester, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland – Tech North aims to empower digital entrepreneurs, accelerate the development of the North’s digital economy and support the growth of tech talent from ankle biters upwards. As tech recruiters, at MRJ we are massively behind a tech talent drive and making the tech industry more accessible to everyone, particularly young people and women.

The TechTalent Charter, initiated by Monster.co.uk, supported by Code First: Girls and inspired by the Stemettes, is something we’re going to keep a close eye on in 2016. We can’t let Caitlin Moran’s valid yet frightening fears that, "if 90% of coders are men, developing and owning the language of the future, women won’t be part of the conversation” become a reality. That’s why it’s brilliant to see the success of women led tech groups, such as the Vanessa Clarke Foundation (check out #StopTalkingStartDoing) and SheSays Manchester.

Start-ups are another essential part of the tech boom. Doug Ward, Shaun Gibson and Martin Bryant are pioneering the #MCRTOP5 campaign, which aims to get Manchester into the top five start-up cities in Europe. According to North West Business Insider, 54,187 companies were incorporated in the North West in 2015, plus there is a growing network of young companies and businesspeople helping each other out, which makes taking the leap into the world of business a lot less daunting. #MCRTOP5 certainly isn’t an impossible feat. Let’s also not forget the fact that the tenacious trio have secured £24 million funding (including government backing) to build Forward, a game-changing technology hub and co-working space set to open in the Northern Quarter in 2016.

According to Tech Nation: Powering the Digital City 2015, a whopping £3.5 billion has been invested to support Manchester’s digital and technology infrastructure; considering education (the area has five universities), media (Salford’s £950 million MediaCityUK) and science (Manchester is the European City of Science 2016) too, it feels as though Greater Manchester is a force to be reckoned with. The people ain’t bad either.

Manchester’s digital employment stands at 56,145, but this is more than just a number. We meet and become inspired by some of the best tech talent around every day – from software developers to web developers, data analysts to IT support managers, and digital heads to CTOs; the North is thriving with world-class talent.

There’s a real buzz in Manchester right now, with geek meets, social events and collaborative spaces in abundance – not to mention the city’s repertoire of new property developments, eateries and centres of arts and culture. We can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

The Tory catchphrase, Northern Powerhouse, may be nothing more than a slogan intended to win voters, but, as stubborn, hard-working and downright intrepid Mancs, we know that the future is bright.




Posted: 09 Dec 2015

Congratulations! You’ve secured an interview, now you need to get ready for it and make sure you are offered the role!


Preparation, preparation, preparation. And then more preparation. Research the company, their products, what’s going on in their industry sector, their competitors, any awards they’ve won and also about the person who’s going to be interviewing you.


Most Common "STANDARD" Interview Questions

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. What is/was the greatest frustration in your current/last job?
  3. Talk me through a difficult scenario at work and how you dealt with it?
  4. Tell me how you worked effectively under pressure?
  5. Describe the hardest decision you have faced in the past 12 months?
  6. Tell me about our company? Give your top-line analysis?
  7. What specifically interests you about this job?
  8. What are the biggest strengths you would bring to this organisation?
  9. What are the first 5 things you’d do if you got this position?
  10. What are the 5 things you need to be successful in this position?
  11. What type of work environment do you thrive best within?
  12. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your life and how have you overcome it?
  13. Talk about a time that you took a risk and failed, and one where you took a risk and succeeded?
  14. What was the difference?
  15. Tell me about one of your proudest moments at work.
  16. When I call your old boss what will they say about you? And what would your husband/wife say?
  17. What are you (most) passionate about?
  18. What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?
  19. What is your ‘end-game’ or career goal? How does this role support that?
  20. Describe someone outside your field of interest who inspires you and why?


New Technology talent Visa available

Posted: 25 Nov 2015

As the UK issues warnings about the lack of Technology and Digital talent available, something needed to be done to reach the "global talent pool" and this is certinly a start.

From Tech North:

"We are delighted to announce that the Home Office has today published renewed eligibility criteria for the Tech Nation Visa Scheme (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent).

Following the announcement of plans to revise the criteria on 16th October 2015, the visa route is now officially open for applications under the new eligibility criteria.

For full details, have a read:


#technorth #mcrtop5 #talent #northernpowerhouse

Award Season is Upon Us...

Posted: 04 Nov 2015

As we pull out the knit wear, and sip from our red cupped Gingerbread lattes, it would seem that award season is upon us in Manchester. 

This year we are delighted to be nominated for two awards! 

Our MD Jody Marks has been nominated for the 'Talent & Recruiter of the Year' at the Manchester Young Talent Awards. The awards are run by JCI Manchester and will be hosted on Thursday 19th November at the Imperial War Museum North.

But it doesn't stop there.. MRJ have been nominated for the 'Recruitment Company of the Year' at the Talk of Manchester Awards, hosted by Talk of Manchester. The awards is on 3rd December 2015 at the Mecure Hotel, Manchester. Don't forget to nominate for us and get your ticket.

We would like to take the time to thank everyone who voted for us, supported us, and given love to the MRJ family! 

See you all at the awards!

MRJ ADVICE CENTRE: 2 Minutes with James Mearns

Posted: 26 Oct 2015

This week we spent 2 minutes with James Mearns, Marketing Manager of Manchester Creative Studio, a school which aims to prepare young people ages between 14-19 for a career in the creative and digital sector.

The school's cirriculum has been sculpted in partnership with some of Manchester's leading employers within the digital and creative community, and addressing the skills shortage. 

As term begins, we spent time with James to discuss creative education, the skills gap and preparing students for working life within the industry. 

Firstly, we asked James how Manchester Creative Studio prepares students for working life.. He tell us that the school gives the student amazing access to the industry. The school has partnerships with some of Manchester's best agencies and organisations including Amaze, theEword, BJL, Reason Digital, Code Computer Love, Hyper Island, and UK Fast. These partners allow the school to host expert masterclasses, networking opportunities, introductions to the latest programmes and technologies which allows the students to build the necessary skills to prepare them for the working world without a 'steep learning curve' between transition.

Next we asked James what advice he would give to those students and young people interested in working within the creative industry. He suggests to "keep those creative juices flowing!" He would encourage young people to use the resources and skills that they have: make movies, play around with their available with technologies to create new and creative materials. James tells us, it's not just about those creative skills though: it's also about the soft skills, which include the CV writing skills, the interview techniques and communication skills which also support your over portfolio.

"You are a product of your experiences, so use your time creatively."

The final question we asked James was how Manchester can better bridge the gap between industry and education? James suggested that the biggest gap between industry was the skills gap. He highlights the need for people to 'back' the importance of new skills within the industry. For all those industry employers and freelancers, why not spend time in those 'creative operators' and donate your time to help develop and build the skills of young people interested in the 'booming' industry. It is so important to encourage young people to get more involved with the community. James discusses the certain 'stigma' there may be toward the industry, and it is our job to scratch that stigma for the next generation of creatives. The MCS works to encourage those students to build the skills and portfolios rather than pushing them down the more perhaps, traditional route of university.

Manchester, We're More Than Just a City #MCRTop5

Posted: 20 Oct 2015

Recently, there has been a huge buzz about the city, don't you think? If you sit and list every announcement, event, news publication, tweet, meet up, and investment that we read and hear about, it's hard to single it down to one particular things. 

Over the past year, since Chancellor George Osborne stood up in our city and announced the need for the "Northern Powerhouse," there has been huge investment, transformation and plans for the city to push to make Manchester the Northern Powerhouse and one of Europe's Top 5 Destinations #MCRTop5, and we're well on the way to achieving that. 

On the agenda for the Northern Powerhouse is attraction of talent and 'creating the talent clusters for the regions and companies within. Naturally as recruiters, when reading this we took an interest in the direction of the talent, particularly in the North. Osbourne talks of growth and enhancement of the 'knowledge economy' with access to skills, to attract and retain the brightest and best talent and investment internationally. This in hand will 'empower people to derive most benefit from their individual talents through their career' - That's great news for us!

This week President Xi Jinping of China is visiting the UK and will be attending an exclusive dinner hosted by David Cameron at Manchester Town Hall, this Friday. China's ambassodor, Lui Xiaoming told Reuters News "The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain's own long-term interest." It is also said that the Chinese president may also announce an investment toward HS2 between Manchester and London. 

That being said, why wouldn't someone invest in Manchester? We're the brains behind the discovery of Graphene, by researchers here in the city, at University of Manchester. But we didn't just sit back and take the credit for that, and that's one great thing about the city, we don't just stop when we've achieved something... We keep getting better! The 'tradition' of Graphene is still continued to this day by all those researchers every Friday aternoon, and it's the whole team from Nobel Laureats right through to new PhD students to discuss and share research ideas. It's in our nature as a city to 'give back' and help people when we can.

It doesn't just stop at the University of Manchester though.. Twenty minutes across the city (walking at a leisurely pace) is the home of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), and their mission is to "explore where science met industry and the modern world began, and to understand the impact that Manchester science, technology and innovation continues to have on all our lives." MOSI keeps Manchester on the map.

But wait, it's not just science and graphene that makes Manchester what it is. We've built up a city of startups and we're the home for many entrepreneurs. Co-working spaces including SpacePortX, MadLab, Barclays Escalator, Hello Work, and the Sharp Project allow startups and freelancers to pay a small monthly fee to work in the space with other like-minded people. 

"That’s what SpacePortX has been designed to achieve. A 6,000 sq ft co-working space where solo freelancers and small start-ups can pay £250 per month for a desk and take advantage of an environment that puts like-minded people together, serving as a petri dish for successful collaborative relationships."
Doug Ward, SpacePortX.

Did you know the North West is the fastest growing digital tech scene outside of London? Opportunities exist like never before for tech and creative experts to work for companies such as BBC, Code Computer Love, Rentalcars.com, AO.com, MRJ Group, Nandos, Moneysupermarket.com, Auto Trader UK. It's not by conincidence that start ups including Missguided, Boohoo, Beauty Bay, Formisimo, Hyper Island and Wakelet choose to start in Manchester right?

Co-working space, Barclays Escalator Central Working, homes both large and small businesses, including DotForge Accelerator, a pre-seed startup accelerator that supports talented entrepreneurs to build visionary companies, whom run events and workshops within the Manchester community. The Escalator is also home to pioneering Tech North, a government-funded initiative delivered through Tech City UK who want to accelerate the development of the North’s digital economy through the promotion and support of digital entrepreneurship. 

Tech North lead by Herb Kim, Claire Braithwaite, Paul Lancaster, Coral Grainger, and the rest of the team, have been the talk of Manchester recently with the introduction of their Tech North Northern Stars. Last week, Tech North had the pleasure of welcoming Baroness Joanna Shields to announce their 'Tech Nation Visa Scheme.' The scheme is dedicated to helping the digital sector to attract world-class talent from outside the EU. The scheme is set to launch in November this year. Looks like we're setting a global trend with the Barclays Rise, a new physical and virtual global community for fintech innovation.

"What we have that is unique & special is the character and personality of the North. It has real soul" 
Tech North @TechNorthHQ 

Not only do these co-working spaces act as as 'office' for startups and freelancers, they also host many tech and digital events run by industry experts, organisations, and groups intersted in sharing their passion and making a change. Meet ups including Silicon Drinkabout, Manchester Social Entrepreneurs, MCR Fred, StartUpBrewUp, Manc JS, MCR Tester Gathering allow you to meet like minded individuals, mentors, friends and those with a shared passion. Manchester is also great at hosting wierd and wonderful conferences including BarCamp Manchester (which we sponsored #BCMCR), NUX Conference, Thinking Digital Conference, Business Rocks, Manchester Skills Festival, which is run by Manchester Digital. They are dedicated to supporting the development of digital skills and talent in the North West. In response to the current skills shortage we have developed a number of initiatives that will grow the regional talent pool and support business growth. In attempt to connect talent and the community. 

Until now, we have celebrated the potential talent pool that these initatives, conferences and spaces will attract. Now let us focus on the talent that is already set here with us in Manchester. In the city, we have invested heavily in education with prestigious educational institutions including University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford, Manchester Academy and Manchester College. We've even reached further down to primary school with initatives including Code Club and Coder Dojos, which encourage children to explore computer programming. With the changes in technology, introduction of STEM subjects, and changes in educational sllyabus for younger generations, these after school programmes allow kids to start their journey and find their passion from a young age. 

UK Fast is renown for it's investment and commitment to it's employees and the Manchester community, including hosting a variety of events and seminars in the space, and partnering with Code Club, to work with local primary schools. 

So all this being said and celebrated, what does it mean for Manchester? What does it mean for the talent in Manchester? (And as the dreaded recruiters, what does this mean for the jobs landscape on the horizon?) It's pretty clear to see that as a city we have solid foundations for growth, especially as a 'Northern Powerhouse.'
Having the backing, investment and support from the Government and potential overseas bodies gives us the confidence to thrive, excel and take risks. Despite the weather, the future of Manchester looks pretty bright. Investment with projects including Forward Manchester, University of Manchester Engineering Campus, Bruntwood BBC Redevelopment, and the XYZ Spinningfields Development show the transformation of the city, making it more attractive for the next generation of world class talent. 

#Manchester from Craig Murfin on Vimeo.


MRJ Recruitment

Queens Chambers, 5 John Dalton Street, Manchester, M2 6ET