Friday morning was an early start for the Cosmic team as we were up and out to Plymouth to the UK Digital Skills Group Breakfast which was hosted by Goss. Cosmic proudly sponsored the event and we had a fantastic morning which including taking part in some video interviews with the celebrity who hosted the event. Maggie Philbin (Ex- Tomorrow’s World Presenter and leader of the UK Digital Skills Taskforce) is heading up a report for Ed Miliband with recommendations for the future of digital skills, both for young people and in the workplace. Maggie was an excellent host for the event and after a delicious networking breakfast, we were invited to swap tables so that each contained a complete mix of people (industry professionals, representatives from universities and schools as well as apprentices and CEOs). The agenda for the day then came further into play, and each table started to discuss possibilities around new ideas for digital skills in the UK. There were five areas of discussion:
- Perception- Looking at different perceptions of careers in IT and digital skills and what sort of person/ skills is required for it.
- Schools and Colleges- Looking at barriers preventing young people gaining digital skills and how education can better prepare leavers with the skills needed and industry opportunities in the curriculum
- Apprenticeships- How can we make it easier for companies to take on apprentices and make sure that businesses of all sizes have these opportunities
- Universities- How do we ensure that graduates have the digital skills that the workplace and industry needs?
- Ongoing Learning- How do we ensure that the current working population is aptly digitally skilled?
These were really good conversation starters and sparked a lot of discussion. Some of the ideas included an online workspace for students and school leavers which would allow companies to ‘sponsor’ a student and monitor their progress through college with a view to taking them afterwards. Another idea was to organise a ‘talent pool’ of digitally skilled individuals who could be hired by companies on casual work contracts to enable them to complete some work around digital. There was also a lot of discussion regarding the need for more women to work within the digital and IT industries. This is particularly important the lower end of the spectrum, it was agreed that there is currently a perception about the IT industry that implies you need to be highly intelligent or ‘geeky’ to work in it.
One of the first things Maggie instructed us to do once we had been welcomed was swap tables so that we weren’t with anyone we knew, and so that we were all mixed up in terms of experience and ability. This meant that the discussions which took place were really pro-active and resulted in some fantastic practical solutions to some of the problems presented to us. I really enjoyed the chance to discuss the issues, particularly with other members of the industry and students currently in Sixth Form.
After some further networking and discussion had taken place we were invited by Maggie to carry out some video interviews about our experiences of digital skills. As apprentices, we were interviewed about our time during college and the digital apprenticeship programme that is currently underway at Cosmic. Magpie then interviewed Julie (Cosmic CEO) about Cosmic’s view as an industry practitioner about digital skills and their distribution across the population. It was a fantastic chance for us to give our views on the problems that exist particularly within the education sector. I also appreciated the time Maggie took to talk to us about her ideas and opinions. As leader of the task force, she was genuinely interested in the debate and it was great to see that digital skills really matter. From my perspective, it was the first time I had experienced a breakfast business meeting and it struck me that these events are a little more casual than their evening and dinner equivalents. It was great to talk to people from the council and representatives from BT, they were also really inquisitive as to our opinions as apprentices. The best part of the morning would have to be a tie between the breakfast (fry-up on a stick amongst fruit kebabs and pastries) and the video interviews with Maggie. Both were thoroughly enjoyable and a welcome addition to the morning. If you’d like to contribute to the conversations about digital skills in the UK, or you’d just like to find out more about the project take a look at www.ukdigitalskills.com where you can get in touch and give your say about the report and the project.