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Tech City: Broadband and education ‘key’ issues in tech growth

PUBLISHED: 17:14 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:14 19 May 2015

Meg Hillier, representative for Hackney South and Shoreditch, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

Meg Hillier, representative for Hackney South and Shoreditch, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

PA Archive/Press Association Images

MPs for Tech City have voiced their recommendations on how to ensure the technology powerhouse continues to thrive under the new Tory government.

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and FinsburyEmily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury

Meg Hiller of Hackney South and Shoreditch and Emily Thornberry of Islington South and Finsbury, this week spoke about what measures the government should be taking to keep the area competitive on an international scale.

Key issues discussed were broadband, education and immigration.

Ms Thornberry said: “Central London and Tech City in particular, has the potential to be a world class centre of innovation and entrepreneurship. But there are unique challenges that currently face businesses, particularly small businesses and start-ups, seeking to establish a presence in the area. Connectivity is the key issue here, and not just for business owners.

“The term ‘Tech City’ is relatively new and it hasn’t really caught on yet – not in the same way as, say, Silicon Valley. One of the reasons for this has to be the obstacle that poor connectivity gets in the way of the businesses that need high speed connections the way the rest of us need oxygen.

“The government should apply pressure to big companies like BT and Virgin Media to play their part in extending quality broadband access to Tech City businesses.”

Ms Hillier added: “More competition and more change to bring down prices should be seen as a major priority for government.”

Ms Hillier said she would be campaigning for a change in immigration policies to make it easier for high-skilled immigrants to work in the tech sector.

She said: “Half of those coming in with high level skills are immigrants from overseas and it takes a while for their training to catch up with the jobs in Tech City, which are always evolving.

“So I want to be banging the drums for the right people to be coming abroad as well as the other work I do on immigration.”

Ms Hiller also said that she hoped to see young people locally being trained alongside Tech City professionals and it was important to make sure schemes like the Hackney 100 continued, where young people were given paid work experience in various businesses in the area.

“Having that experience of work and the particular business in those companies gave young people an ‘in’, not just work experience but the ability to build ongoing relationships. I think it is really important to build confidence and soft skills.

“The reality is a lot of young people don’t have those natural connections in family and friends but we have a family in Hackney, not just in tech but in other areas too, and they come very willingly to meet these young people.”

Ms Thornberry also said the government should seek to improve the uptake of science, technology, engingeering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in schools, especially among girls and under-represented ethnic minorities.

She added: “Recognising our universities as powerhouses of the high tech sector, they should be given greater certainty with a long term funding plan for investment in science and engineering.”


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