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Harnessing digital potential in the North East

At the start of October, a new digital strategy for the North East was launched. Digital for Growth brings together partners from across the region to maximise opportunities for growth and investment. North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, talks about digital skills and how our workforce will form a vital component of this new digital strategy.

The North East is a region with a vibrant digital ecosystem that is packed with the potential to deliver economic growth and more, new jobs as it continues to flourish.

That’s not just jobs which might be typically defined as digital – for example, gaming design or software development – but roles across all areas of industry, as more and more organisations embrace digitalisation and the increased productivity it brings

To make sure we’re in the best possible position to reap the benefits of digitalisation for our region, we need to focus on the digital skills needs that we know exist in the North East. We must make sure that people in our area – both our existing workforce and the workforce of the future – have the digital skills that employers are looking for, and the skills that will allow everyone to fully take part in an increasingly digitalised society.

We want to completely dispel any myths and stereotypes that exist when people think about digital skills, or careers in the digital sector, and we want to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to upskill and take advantage of new technologies and digital job opportunities.

Part of our work around this will be to link employers closely with schools, colleges and education providers to ensure that young people, from primary-school age onwards, understand the range of possibilities open to them in our region, whether that’s a career in a digitally focussed organisation or a role in any sector which will require sound digital skills.

The Digital for Growth strategy focuses on the many digital hubs and networks we have in the region, plus our colleges, universities and training providers. Strong relationships between education and industry are already having a positive impact and we want to see more of this happening throughout the region, across businesses of all sizes and types.

We also believe it’s especially important that employers continue to look to the future, champion digital skills development and invest in training for their workforce. Lifelong learning, training opportunities, mid-career retraining and non-linear career paths are other examples of areas where employers can take positive action to upskill existing workers and help to secure a pipeline of appropriately-skilled people for years to come.

The North East LEP aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs in the North East by 2024, and many of these jobs will be within the digital sector, or they will require strong digital skills.

Working together to address our digital skills needs is vital if we are to make sure that people in our region can enjoy a better quality of life, if our businesses are to continue to grow and take on new staff, and if our young people are to build fulfilling and successful careers.

Read more about the North East’s Digital for Growth strategy here. If you’d like to join the North East LEP’s working group for digital skills, please get in touch at [email protected].


Home / adult learning

Planning for our region’s ‘upskill battle’

This week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report into the importance of lifelong learning in our modern economy.

They’ve entitled it ‘An upskill battle’, which perfectly encapsulates the challenge we face as we respond to an ever-changing sector and skills landscape, and as we work to develop a more competitive economy for the North East.

The very nature of this challenge – particularly around technology, digitalisation and innovation – is that the landscape will continue to evolve and change. It is indeed an uphill battle. So how do we plan and prepare for a future that could change the very moment we think we’ve caught up with it?

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has been working for some time now – with employers, training providers, schools, colleges and other partners – to explore these challenges and keep them at the top of the agenda when it comes to future planning around employability and skills in the region.

And as highlighted by the CBI in their report, lifelong adult education and careers guidance need to be a fundamental part of the solution.

The demands of today’s global, digitally-driven economy require a broader, more agile skillset than ever before. It’s a fast-moving landscape that waits for no-one. Employers and government need to recognise this quickly and work together to make sure that people can access the training and support they need to remain productive throughout their working lives.

Employers need to build training and skills development into their business models, and government needs to ensure that training is accessible and affordable for those who need to pay for it themselves.

We also agree with the CBI that we need to extend careers guidance beyond 19 and abandon the idea that teachers can equip young people with all the knowledge they need at the start.

Instead, we need to think about careers guidance as a journey from primary-age to retirement, and this is particularly important for those who experience loss of work or whose skills face becoming obsolete.

If we can put the right support, guidance and training opportunities in place in our region, we can revive, revitalise and extend working lives and create a workforce that’s adaptable and ready to take on whatever the future economy may throw at us.

An important part of this will be around supporting people to understand how they can map and transfer their strengths, skills and knowledge from one role to another throughout their career.

That’s why we particularly support the CBI’s suggestion that government should look to develop a nationally recognised skills ‘passporting’ tool as part of the National Retraining Scheme, so that informal training and skills are taken into account when looking for future employment. The Department for Education’s Get Help to Retrain scheme, piloted in the North East, is a good step towards this, supporting people to map their current skills and signposting opportunities.

This CBI report highlights some very stark realities; people will typically work up to twenty years longer than their parents, well into their 70s, meaning the growing need for adult education and a shift towards a lifelong learning culture is critical.

Working into our 70s and beyond is a challenge that many of us will personally face. The time to plan for that future, is now.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.