Even for people like me, who spend their working lives in the technology business, the sheer scale of the digital economy can come as a surprise. Looking at the latest stats from the Tech Partnership, the organisation I represent, the figures are breath-taking: the tech industry is worth more than £91bn a year to the UK economy. Over 1.7m people are in the tech workforce - that's one in twenty of the working population. There are more than 150,000 tech enterprises in the UK.
It's equally startling to look at the growth figures. In the five years to 2013, the number of tech enterprises grew by 11% - compared with 0.3% for the total number of UK enterprises. In 2012/13, the tech industry's Gross Value Added - a measure of its contribution to the economy - grew three times faster than the GVA of industry as a whole. More than 70,000 people joined the tech specialist workforce last year - and the Tech Partnership estimates that the sector as a whole needs 134,000 people a year over the next five years.
Tech is an unequivocal success story for the British economy. So what is it that keeps the chief executives, the managing directors, the business owners awake at night? It's the surprising difficulty of recruiting enough of the right people to work in this boom industry. Despite stimulating challenges and good salaries, tech organisations struggle to attract the potential high fliers they need.
Tech employers are now getting together to find a way to brush aside the complex fog of misapprehensions that hang over tech jobs - jobs that are not geeky, are not confined to basement offices, and do not involve being surgically attached to a keyboard. They are opening up opportunities to people at all ages and stages to take up roles that are driven by teamwork; involve travel, problem solving and management challenges; are well paid, stimulating and fulfilling. A new era in apprenticeships is particularly encouraging: simplified frameworks are making it easier for companies of all sizes to take on tech apprentices, while guaranteeing the new entrants worthwhile qualifications and work experience. For young people with A levels or equivalent, there's a whole new game in town: the newly launched degree apprenticeships give them the chance to earn a full degree from a top-flight university, combined with real-life work opportunities and, best of all, no student debt.
Graduates with the magic combination of technical and interpersonal skills will always be in high demand - check out the Tech Partnership's Information Technology and Management for Business degree, or its Software Development for Business degree, to see what that means in practice. But it's genuinely exciting to see that there are now entry routes for people from the widest possible range of educational backgrounds, all of them getting the chance to climb a career ladder that can take them right to the top. The attitude to apprenticeships in the tech sector has evolved enormously in the past few years: until recently, employers focused all their recruitment efforts on graduates, but now they are equally excited by apprentices. It's particularly positive to see the recognition that apprentices bring a great deal to employers in terms of energy, application, fresh ideas and enthusiasm: the benefits of apprenticeship work for both sides.
But if employers were given one recruitment wish, it would be this: a flood of female applicants. Employers really care about the gender balance of their workforce, for the most practical of reasons - if you're only fishing in half the pond, you can't be catching all the best fish. They know there are countless women who could have fulfilling and rewarding careers in tech, but are simply never considering the sector. This has to change - and employers are increasingly seeing that this is something they must tackle together.
It's a big sector, it's growing fast, it needs more people, and it needs more women. What are you waiting for? The career of a lifetime awaits.