Regional Partner: Barnsley College Barnsley College is partnering with Sheffield Digital to connect more of the region’s tech businesses to its new Digital Industries Department. Barnsley College has launched an ambitious digital transformation strategy to create more digitally skilled communities, transform the college’s infrastructure and facilities, and help close the region’s digital skills gap. The college has introduced a new Digital Industries Department offering employer-led courses and a new bespoke building currently called the Digital Innovation Hub, designed to be a core resource for learners and businesses alike. Through collaboration with Sheffield Digital, Barnsley College wants to connect more businesses in Sheffield City Region to its resources and facilities. We caught up with Ebrahim Akudi, Head of the Digital Industries Department, to find out more. Barnsley College is rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and maintains the highest standards of teaching quality, resources and facilities for its learners. In the past year, the college has launched an innovative Digital 4.0 agenda to establish itself as an integral part of the region’s digital ecosystem. Ebrahim comments, “Our research has shown that there has been a lot of investment in our region by companies looking to hire people with mid to high level digital and creative skills in areas such as digital media and marketing, games, web development, networking, cyber security, software development and data analysis. As a result, not only have we seen an influx in the number of students signing up to digital related courses, but we have embraced our purpose to serve our communities in connecting the two.” Ebrahim Akudi Since his appointment in September 2019, Ebrahim has worked with local, regional and sector leading businesses to help him refine the courses his department offers. He explains, “Not only have we worked with local and regional employers to develop our curriculum, but we have created clear progression and career routes and invested in cutting-edge digital facilities and resources that will support our learners and employers. “By refining our FE, HE and Apprenticeship provision and introducing technically focused ‘T-Levels’, we have started to fill skills gaps and support current and future employers within a range of sectors.” A Digital Innovation Hub The college is transforming its SciTech Building – previously home to Health Sciences and Social Care teaching – into a bespoke and specialist Digital Innovation Hub. As well as housing the new Digital Industries Department, the Hub will be a part of Barnsley’s Digital Campus, a collaboration with the Digital Media Centre and Barnsley Council. As well as housing the new Digital Industries Department, the Digital Innovation Hub will be a part of Barnsley’s Digital Campus Whilst being central to Barnsley’s digital industries, Ebrahim wants the college to play an important role in the bigger picture. He says, “We are part and parcel of Sheffield City Region and many of our learners work within or leave the Borough to seek employment, with Sheffield being a main destination for them. By joining Sheffield Digital we are embracing the wider regional agenda, promoting digital skills for life and the numerous courses and specialist experiences our college has to offer – and in doing so, aiming to lead the journey in digital education.” Ebrahim is eager to connect with businesses in the Sheffield Digital community to show what the college can offer. In addition, the Digital Innovation Hub includes an assortment of specialist hi-spec teaching and training rooms, digitally-focused resources and dedicated spaces and studios that businesses can hire and use. Excited about the future of the College and the digital transformation of the Borough of Barnsley, Ebrahim wants to shout about the exciting things that are happening. “An increase in the volume of investment, infrastructure, support and resource from the council and its partners; the Sheffield City Region, the College, the Digital Innovation Hub, the exciting growth of the DMC and the plans for a Digital Campus all point to one thing – when it comes to ‘digital’, Barnsley is on the map now.” Asked what he would like to say to the Sheffield Digital community, Ebrahim said: “As a College, we haven’t just embraced digital, we have embedded it within our core principles, curriculum and delivery. We are growing, evolving and pro-actively moving ahead. But we aren’t just moving with our own agenda, we are here to support the Sheffield Digital agenda and community with their requirements and needs. “It’s simple – your growth is our growth, your success is our success. We are part of an ecosystem and we can serve each other’s purposes in many different and creative ways. So let’s get digital…” You can find out more about Barnsley College on the website and you can get in touch with Ebrahim directly by emailing him, to find out more about his department.