Part 2: Tech skills /

Mobility of tech talent

Mobility between UK regions

London and the North West saw a net gain of members with tech skills in 2016. Other regions in the UK experienced a net loss of members with tech skills. 

The mobility of skilled workers is regarded as an important mechanism through which knowledge and skills between firms and regions are transferred both within countries and between nations. Attracting talent with tech skills is seen as increasingly critical for the success of regional economies as the UK continues to specialise in ever more high-skilled, knowledge intensive activities. For some, the fact that members with tech skills are leaving many UK regions may be concerning – and points to the need for regional retention strategies in order to ensure that businesses have the tech talent they require to grow.

Inter-regional migration of LinkedIn members with tech skills – LinkedIn members moving in to a region for every 1 LinkedIn member moving out

Change to the number of LinkedIn members with tech skills Change to the number of LinkedIn members with tech skills
London 0.3
North West 0.1
South West 0
West Midlands -0.1
East of England  -0.1
Northern Ireland -0.1
Yorkshire and the Humber -0.1
East Midlands -0.1
Wales -0.1
Scotland -0.1
South East -0.1
North East -0.3

Graduate mobility and regional retention

The majority of graduates with tech skills stayed in Northern Ireland (75%), Scotland (69%) and London (68%) after they completed their studies at a university in the same region.

Graduate retention of LinkedIn members with tech skills

Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills (%) Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills (%)
Northern Ireland 74%
Scotland 69%
London 68%
North West 44%
West Midlands 34%
North East 34%
South East 34%
South West  33%
Yorkshire and the Humber  32%
Wales 31%
East of England 30%
East Midlands 21%


Higher Education Institutions are important pillars in the UK’s tech ecosystem. They generate skills and innovation while attracting investment and talent. In fact, Tech Nation 2017 showed that eight of Europe’s top 20 universities are located in the UK – making our institutions globally significant, as well as nationally and regionally integral.

But the regions where people study, do not necessarily have job opportunities for graduates. This leads to graduates the regions they studied in, in favour of those that may have a higher concentration of employment opportunities, like London. Of course, there are many other reasons why graduates move away from the region that they studied in – including the culture of a region, or location within that region, to name a few examples.

Historically, universities have produced graduates for a national labour market dominated by large employers. Less thought has been given to the talent needs of small, or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) or to processes of graduate retention in local labour markets. Fragmentation of companies, and growth in new market entrants – meaning more small businesses as a proportion of the business population, has become more extensive over the last decade – which infers that universities need to fulfil a new set of roles in the UK’s talent ecosystem. This begs the question – are universities geared up to provide talent for small business? Many would suggest not. Policy focused conversations on the extent to which graduates are ‘industry ready’ have heightened, and for priority sectors like tech and the creative industries, many employers lament the lack ‘oven ready’ workers in the early stages of their careers. This points to the need to broaden and deepen mechanisms to endow graduates with the work-skills demanded by employers across a greater number of courses, and institutions.

Migration from outside the UK

Of the top 10 countries, the highest proportion of members who arrived in the UK with tech skills in 2016 came from nations outside Europe. India (12%), the USA (10%) and Australia (7%), Spain (6%) and France (6%) were the top 5 countries of origin.

Top 10 countries of origin for LinkedIn members with tech skills (excluding students) from outside the UK, who arrived in the UK during 2016, as a proportion of all LinkedIn members with tech skills

Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills  who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%) Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%)
India 12%
United States 10%
Australia 7%
Spain 6%
France 6%
Italy 5%
Ireland 4%
Germany 3%
South Africa 3%
United Arab Emirates 2%

The importance of non-EEA workers is supported by part 1 of the Tech Nation Talent series, where, using data from the Office of National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey, we found that 7% of the UK’s digital tech workforce was comprised of non-EEA nationals, compared to 6% EU nationals in 2015.

Destination region in the UK

Over half (51%) of international talent with tech skills moved to regions outside of London, and just under 50% moved to London. For 12% the destination region was the South East, 7% moved to Scotland, and 6% to the North West.

International talent with tech skills is regionally dispersed – slightly more than non-UK workers in the tech sector. As the chart below on the destination of international talent shows, a large proportion of talent from outside the UK settles in London in the first instance. In Part 1, we found that 31% of London’s workforce share was made up of non-UK nationals, whilst in the South East of England it was 12%.

Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 by region (excluding London at 49.5%)

LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%) LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%)
South East 12%
Scotland 7%
North West 6%
East of England 5%
South West 5%
West Midlands 5%
Yorkshire and the Humber 4%
East Midlands 3%
North East 2%
Wales 1%
Northern Ireland 1%

Destination industry

Whilst a large proportion of international talent moved to the UK to work in Technology at 33%, over 14% worked in Professional Services. 11% worked in Financial Services and 8% in Architecture and Engineering – showing the diverse range of sectors demanding international talent with tech skills.

Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 by industry

Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%) Proportion of LinkedIn members with tech skills who arrived in the UK in 2016 (%)
Technology 33%
Professional Services 13%
Financial Services & Insurance 11%
Architecture & Engineering 8%
Government/Education/non-profit 7%
Media & Entertainment 6%
Retail & Consumer Products 6%
Aero/Auto/Transport 4%
Healthcare & Pharmaceutical 3%
Oil & Energy 3%
Telecommunications 3%
Manufacturing/Industrial 2%
Staffing 1%

Hiring non-UK nationals is often used by firms in the UK as a mechanism to address skills shortages in the workforce. In the graph above, the differences in the proportion of migrants with tech skills may be a reflection of the size of that industry, but it may also also suggest that sectors like Technology, Professional services and Financial services are more reliant than other sectors on non-UK talent with tech skills than others 1.


  1. However, without commensurable data on employer demand, this is unsubstantiated in the data.

Tech Nation Talent

A four-part series of reports on the talent and skills dynamics of the UK tech sector.

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International talent report Infographic