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In conversation with Business Support Board Member, Rob Earnshaw

Digital skill is at the heart of our region’s growth

The Bank of England still recognise the North East as one of the Fastest growing regions for business activity in the UK, yet we still seem to have one of the highest rates of unemployment and perception from other regions that we are still a small fish.

This excites me because we have an opportunity not only to upskill our workforce to create more and better jobs, but we have the prospect to show others what we can achieve.

As a region we are unique, we have a history steeped in adversity yet because of our passion and collective desire to not accept failure we have always managed to survive, adapt and still come out as world leaders in our fields. At the heart of this is innovation.

We now live in a Digital age; innovation more than ever comes through digital platforms. Businesses are now able to communicate, share ideas and provide services faster, cheaper and better than before yet 25% of our region’s population lack basic digital skills*, which is the highest percentage in the country.

To reach our economic potential we have to ensure that our region’s business and workforce take full advantage of our growing digital landscape.

I have been fortunate enough to be asked by the North East LEP to sit on the Business Support Board and the Apprentice Growth Partnership. During my time with the North East LEP I have been encouraged by the innovative approach to deliver the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and the fact that our business support will be delivered through a digital platform – www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk.

This initiative is unique amongst the other UK LEPs, forward thinking and certainly the right way to deliver. However, if 25% of our population is lacking basic digital skills how do we ensure that this service is used to the full potential?

Earlier this year I attended a meeting in London with representatives from the different LEP areas held by Go ON UK. Go ON UK is the UK’s leading digital advocate with a mission to ensure everyone has basic digital skills.

Go ON UK would like a Local Enterprise Partnership to develop a National Digital Skills hub that would also offer regional content and signposting and could then be offered to other LEP regions. The idea behind this is to bring together all relevant digital skills content, digital assets, how to guides, training providers and corporate offers together under one hub. After a number of discussions with LEP, the North East LEP was selected to develop the platform and pilot it in the North East. Naturally I wanted this to be brought to the North East and the fact that we have already made the forward thinking decision to deliver our business support digitally made it a perfect match.

The North East LEP, Go ON UK and regional stakeholders are working together to help shape an innovative digital skills hub which will launch in the spring of next year. This is a small step of many in the right direction to ensure that we as businesses, individuals and as the North East LEP, work together to upskill our workforce and ensure that we achieve the great potential this region can offer.

If you would like to get in touch please email me at [email protected]

By Rob Earnshaw

*BBC learning 2014