Develop talks to the Isle of Man economic department about how the island is looking to grow in to the games development sector
This month’s Develop magazine is focused on recruitment and finding employment in the games industry. One of the places that is looking to make a mark in the digital industries, especially VR and AR, is the Isle of Man. Develop spoke to Jonathan Mills (head of e-business) and Elissa Morris (e-bussiness manager) from the Isle of Man department of economic development about what the island is striving for and the issues it faces finding employees.
The Isle of Man is looking to focus on games development as a business sector. How difficult is it to attract people to the island, who might not know much about it?
The Isle of Man has always been very supportive of innovative sectors, and this approach has been integral to our economic diversification, resulting in four decades of growth. As part of this strategy, the Isle of Man is looking at games development as sector we would like to grow and nurture.
The development of gaming businesses is an exciting new vertical that covers a range of companies and opportunities for developers and creative talent. Recently, Isle of Man company GamesCo promoted the beta launch of their new title Grimm: Dark Legacy at the EGX Expo.
How difficult/easy has the search for skilled employees been in trying to improve your growth?
The search for skilled employees has been promising. There already are a few candidates who are skilled in niche areas, such as animation. However, we acknowledge that we need more skilled workers to relocate to the island and so far the uptake has been positive.
The Isle of Man offers relocation grants to companies employing specific skills, up to £10,000 per person or 20 per cent of annual salary and a wide variety of grants to help companies invest in training and equipment.
In addition, maximum national income tax at 20 per cent is lower than the UK, Ireland and all of Europe and so employees have higher take-home pay after tax. Typical tax for a couple earning £100,000 can be as little as 13 per cent.
We also have a lower cost of living compared to Dublin and London with comparable rates to the North West of the U.K. The quality of life on the Isle of Man is higher, and there is an emphasis on a great life/work balance. The island is also the safest place in Europe with an extremely low crime rate. This makes it very suitable for people with young families to bring up their children with comfort that their children can safely walk to school, etc.
As there are 60 flights a day on and off the Island, to London, Dublin, Belfast, Liverpool and Manchester, the island is extremely accessible and so visiting family or having a city break, or even commuting at weekends is very easy.
How have new arrivals settled, and what’s the process for them to come to the Isle of Man?
The Isle of Man Government operates a scheme for export earning firms that gives the employer 20 per cent of the first year salary to assist with relocation. Many firms use this to pay employees costs for relocation and trips home. In general, for people from the UK the costs of going home for the weekends are less than many British train fares.
There are a wide variety of apartments and houses to rent in the Isle of Man, many with large gardens and in the country, and well connected to Douglas.
As the pace of island life is slightly more relaxed, settling in tends to be relatively easy. There are fantastic sports facilities and there are various interest groups for fans of rugby, football, cycling/mountain-biking, kayaking, horse-riding and paragliding. Golfers have nine golf courses to choose from and bowling remains a local favourite. The people are friendly (even if we do say so ourselves), the government is extremely accessible and members of the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic development are happy to help.
You are currently looking to explore the AR and VR market places. What is your main goal in developing for these areas and what kind of skills are you looking for in employees, given that this is a relatively new area?
We see great potential in augmented and virtual reality. In fact, software development companies on the Island such as Derivco have been experimenting with these immersive technologies.
In general, C++ capability and exposure to Unity and or Unreal engines are the most relevant skills. In addition, a strong interest in new areas and rapidly evolving technologies is a necessity.
What do you feel employers need to do to attract employees to the island and the area?
A lot of the employers on the Island are international companies and are familiar with recruiting off-island and further afield, and so are already successfully attracting employees.
The businesses are already advertising and marketing in certain areas that have the clusters of skill sets, along with promotions online and in specific trade publications. They are also partnering with specialist recruitment agencies.
The employers on the island also go above and beyond to help employees relocate and settle into island life and their vibrant company cultures.
How are you continuing to aid and encourage the growth of developers and the sector?
The Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development is actively encouraging the growth of developers and the sector by exhibiting at jobs fairs, and visiting technical institutes across the UK and Ireland. We are showcasing the Isle of Man as an excellent place to live and work on social media, on the TV and other marketing channels across the UK.
The Isle of Man also has many grants available along with the aforementioned relocation grants.
What are the plans for growth in 2017?
The Isle of Man has a compelling and unique offering. It has plans to attract and nurture games development businesses and skilled workers in the sector. We have ambitions to be the international hub for the digital gaming sector.
The Isle of Man government views the sector as key for its strategic objective of continued economic diversification.