Newcastle College welcomed guests from across the digital sector earlier this week, to co-host a digital growth event with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), Digital Union and Digital Catapult NETV.

The Digital Skills for the Region’s Smart Specialisms event focused on how the region’s businesses and education providers can support the LEP’s Digital for Growth Strategy, but in particular its focus on developing a digitally enabled workforce of the future.

Laura Partridge, Digital Programme Lead for the North East LEP, opened the event and spoke about the need for all of the region’s workers, residents and learners to have digital skills, regardless of their age, background or education, because digital is everything and everyone needs digital life skills.

She said: “We often talk about the skills pipeline and progressing people from education into jobs but it doesn’t stop there. It’s important that they continue learning because technology is moving so fast there is an argument to say that businesses are struggling to keep up.”

The responsibility, Laura says, lies with both businesses and education providers to ensure they are working together to provide skills for everyone, including those approaching retirement, to ensure that we have a diverse and digitally enabled workforce.

Jim Mawdsley, CEO of business support agency Generator, and Jenny Lang, Innovation Manager at Digital Catapult NETV, also spoke at the event and agreed with Laura that a digital workforce is a priority.

Jim pointed out that many colleges and universities across the region, including Newcastle College, offer fantastic digital courses and that the skills gap is not only a lack of graduate talent, but a reluctance to hire inexperienced graduates and an economic issue of smaller tech companies being unable to invest in developing apprentices and graduates.

Newcastle College uses events such as these to liaise with businesses across the North East and understand how we can shape our curriculum to better meet their needs.

Closing the event, Employer Engagement Consultant for Newcastle College, Andrew Esson introduced the brand new Digital and Technology Solutions Professional Degree Apprenticeship. The programme, which was developed in conjunction with Accenture, allows apprentices to qualify in just two years rather than the traditional three and is the first of its kind in the UK.

Andrew said “Newcastle College has been delivering degrees and apprenticeships in digital for a number of years but through our relationships with business and in particular through our Digital Advisory Board, made up of digital employers across the region, we recognise the need for a faster route to qualification.

“It is by working closely with employers like you that we can continue to develop our curriculum to better meet your needs and ensure that our graduates and apprentices are learning the skills needed to really make a difference to your business.”