GOSS hosts UK Digital Skills

Plymouth based GOSS Interactive, one of the UK's leading provider of Web Content Management systems, hosted a regional meeting of the UK Digital SkillsTaskforce chaired by TV celebrity Maggie Philbin.

Maggie Philbin

The breakfast event was held on Friday 25th April in the conference rooms at GOSS, overlooking Dartmoor. In attendance were 30 selected guests from business and education organisations including Plymouth City Council, Devon and Cornwall Business Council, British Telecom, Plymouth Science Park, City College Plymouth, Plymouth University, Michelmore's Solicitors, Cosmic Ethical I.T. and other local SMEs and charities. The delegates also included 6th form students, local apprentices and a university student.

What is the UK Digital Skills Taskforce?

CEO of TeenTech, technology broadcaster and former Tomorrow's World presenter Maggie Philbin has been asked by the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, to lead a taskforce on digital skills. This independent piece of work aims to highlight practical solutions to enable UK business to meet the persistent skills gaps by identifying, developing and using home-grown talent. The Taskforce will report interim findings in June 2014, in time to inform policies for all parties for the election. The event held at GOSS will directly feed into the UK Digital Skill's report.

Maggie Philbin, UK Digital Skills taskforce leader added,

"Digital skills are key to the future UK economy, key to future careers for the next generation and often even more important in rural communities such as the south west. I am confident that the next government will put Digital Skills training and promotion at the heart of its agenda."

According to the Guardian newspaper, British businesses risk falling behind as the digital sector expands. The Report concludes UK enterprises need an extra 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017, with over 169,000 being young people.

75% of school children said they had "never seen any information or been taught about the digital industry". Indeed most (63%) were unaware of the variety of job roles, many thinking the digital industry was for people with highly technical skills. Source: The Guardian 1st April 2014

The UK's Information Communications Technology (ICT) industry is worth £58 billion annually. Source: UK Trade & Industry, February 2014.

5 Key Questions

During the meeting five areas were discussed in working groups and presented back to all attendees. Lots of practical local solutions were suggested and will be included in the report that is due to be published in June 2014.

  1. Perceptions. We know careers in tech are still misunderstood. How can we change this?
  2. Schools and Colleges - What are the barriers preventing young people gaining digital skills? How can formal/informal education better support this? What is the role for business?
  3. Apprenticeships - How can we make it easier for companies of all sizes to take on apprentices? What would a really good apprenticeship in digital skills/IT look like?
  4. Universities. What can we do to ensure people have a better chance of gaining the skills which are actually needed?
  5. Ongoing learning. How do we up skill the existing work force - both in and out of employment? Can we provide better opportunities for career transitions, career pathways for all ages?

One immediate outcome from the event was the agreement of the local business and education delegates to form a South West Digital Skills group to drive forward this important agenda.

Maggie Philbin UK Digital Skills768

Maggie Philbin, UK Digital Skills taskforce leader added,

"It was great to see so many businesses, education establishments and students from the south west so fired up about driving forward such an important issue.  We had some very exciting and stimulating discussions in Plymouth and many of the suggestions will be going forward into our report on digital skills which will come out at the end of June. It was also good to see some actions being decided immediately and I will do my utmost to support these efforts."  

Rob McCarthy, CEO, GOSS Interactive www.gossinteractive.com, commented

"It was a privilege to coordinate this event and play a central role with such as passionate group of local organisations working together to help drive change in supporting young people to develop digital skills needed for modern business. As rapidly expanding Plymouth business, we are always struggling to find candidates with excellent digital skills locally."

Sheldon Ryan, Digital Plymouth, Plymouth City Council added,

"The far South West needs the best digital skills in order to compete. This will mean employees, businesses, skills providers and the public sector all working together better. This meeting brought all of these groups together, generated some great ideas, and I hope will be the start of some exciting partnerships".  

Simon Wainwright, Leadership Associate (Technology for Education), Plymouth City Council added

"The event gave me an opportunity to discuss some key issues around improving digital skills in the schools sector and how this impacts on further education and business. I look forward to working with colleagues on developing some robust strategies for digital skills across the region."

Paul Coles, BT South-West Regional Manager for BT and co-sponsor of the event said

"It was great to be amongst a group of people from leading local organisations with the focus on how we engage students in technology as a career option. There is already a strong focus on "digital", in the widest sense, in Plymouth so I am keen to see where we can take it. I was particularly impressed with the students who took part from Devonport High School for Boys who were intent on challenging, shaping and changing established systems to suit the needs and aspirations of the young."

UK Digital Skills Taskforce South West 768

Ben Rhodes from Devon and Cornwall Business Council stated:

"Digital skills are incredibly important in businesses and this will only increase going forward. This taskforce provided an excellent opportunity for me and hear great ideas for how to improve the quality and availability of digital skills amongst our current and future workforce, such as the digital apprentice scheme. I commend GOSS Interactive for drawing attention to the current digital skills gap and look forward to reading the final report's recommendations."

Rehman Noormohamed, head of Michelmores' Technology, Media & Communications team, said:

"The digital skills agenda and work that Maggie and the Task Force are doing is, I believe, fundamental to helping us to successfully capitalise on the increasing opportunities in the digital and knowledge-based global economy. Michelmores was delighted to be a co-sponsor of the event."

Lena Santoro, Get IT Together Plymouth, Citizens Online stated,

"This was an extremely useful meeting that gave people working in the technology field an opportunity to discuss issues such as getting more girls and women into the area of technology."

Prof Andy Phippen, Professor of Social Responsibility in IT, Plymouth University  added,

"In my work with young people and technology it is so important to make sure that their enthusiasm for technology can be harnessed in a positive way and they are made aware that all the things they use in their social worlds can lead on to rewarding careers. This UK Digital Skills Taskforce meeting was a great opportunity for teachers, academics and business in the South West to come together and talk about how to achieve the strongest digital future for the region. All very exciting."

Co-sponsors of the event were: GOSS Interactive, Michelmores Solicitors, BT, Cosmic Ethical IT and Plymouth University.

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