The association for the people and businesses of Sheffield's digital industries.

talent 23, a year of talent and skills

a year of talent and skills

Advocacy Update for September 2019

Mel, Chris and others we know very often participate in fora where Sheffield's economic strategy is discussed. Where possible, we want to share what gets talked about at these meetings, so that everyone has a chance to be more involved if they want to be.

This is the work we do to increase the profile of the digital tech sector amongst local, regional and national economic policy makers, so that we can work with them, alongside local businesses and individuals, to develop Sheffield’s tech ecosystem and create more opportunities for everyone. It’s the “Represent” part of our “Connect, Promote, Represent” mission statement.

We cover 4 engagements in this September update:

  • A First Tuesday Business Breakfast at C/M/S.
  • A Sheffield Digital Board Meeting.
  • An economy.SHF meeting.
  • A Sheffield Hallam University Department of Computing Industrial Advisory Board meeting.

Some context…

We have four main objectives when we engage in these fora:

  1. Improve the opportunities for business and individuals in our tech cluster.
  2. Increase inward investment to the city & get more people and tech companies to set up here.
  3. Increase the number of people from across Sheffield and the wider region who can engage with and work in the local tech industry.
  4. Take specific messages and requests from our members, both companies and individuals, and represent them. (In a sense, we attend these meetings, so that others don’t have to).

We know that the more we can speak with a collective voice, the more we can get these objectives understood and organisations working together to develop initiatives that will make a difference.

Mel, Neill and I, in particular, have been engaged in these conversations since well before we set Sheffield Digital up, and we’ve achieved a fair amount doing so, however we need to be more strategic and more open about this work. We’ve tried at various times in the past to publish more info about these conversations, it was one of the main reasons we started the podcast, and that’s still a great way to hear about these things and what we think about them. We’ve also tried short video updates and weeknotes, but interest was very low and it was hard to find time every week to do them.

So, instead of week notes we’ve decided to try writing up month notes from the most important of these engagements and this is the first of those.

Ultimately, we would like to have someone representing Sheffield’s tech sector on every business and policy board in the region, and compile notes on all of these engagements. We’re starting with what we’ve got for now though. If you are already engaged in a relevant forum that we haven’t covered, and would be willing to add your notes to the updates, please do get in touch!

Please do also ask us about or comment on any of the topics covered in these meetings by emailing or on Slack or Twitter!

September 3rd – C/M/S First Tuesday Business Breakfast

Chaired by Kevin Parkin of Parkin Limited (Manufacturing Turnaround Specialists and Investors). Around 20 local business leaders, mainly manufacturing and professional services, some retail & property.

Sheffield Digital’s first time presence at this event was very welcome, & it provides a strong opportunity to inform the wider business community in Sheffield of the size, shape, needs and success of digital technology sector. We have been asked to present at an upcoming event, possibly March 2020.

There were two presentations:

  • Anne Wilson, Skills Adviser from the SCR Growth Hub on what the Growth Hub and Skills Bank now offer.
    Growth Hub provides a single port of call for all business growth needs, signposting to local authority & 3rd party specialist provision where appropriate. Allows firms to leverage the connections that the Growth Hub has established over the years – well over 100 partner providers.
    Skills Bank now in its second incarnation. Focused on upskilling/cross-training existing staff especially when introducing new technologies. Important difference this time around is that there is no list of preferred training providers or courses, they support whatever the firm needs no matter where the most suitable training is. Also not tied to employment growth, so no need to demonstrate jobs created any more.
  • Tom Finnegan Smith, Head of Strategic Transport & Infrastructure at Sheffield City Council on the proposals for a Clean Air Zone in Sheffield.
    There is a pressing need to tackle both climate change generally and local air pollution at the same time. Air pollution linked to 500 additional deaths each year in Sheffield. There are also serious long term health implications, especially in children. This is of added importance as the city centre population increases (up to nearly 30,000 from 5,000 fifteen years ago).
    SCC are working with Rotherham, looking at air quality in centres and transport corridors between the two. Initial Clean Air Zone proposal is for charges to be levied on non-conforming commercial vehicles within Sheffield city centre (including ring road). Private vehicles unaffected. 12,000 responses from consultation. Initial polling looks as if the proposition will go through, implementation in 2021. SCC are considering all levers available to shift transport technologies to lower emissions and change behaviours. Ambition is to achieve carbon neutrality across the city by 2030 or thereabouts.

September 10th – Sheffield Digital Board Meeting

Non-embargoed agenda topics:

  • Finance:
    We are in good shape.
  • Quarterly Briefing:
    Finalised. In the process of being printed.
  • Website Development:
    Document prepared to review options to refresh the website.
  • Map:
    Data is ready for testing. Sync process from Capsule to MapMe to be tested this month.
  • TUoS “Launch Pad” Careers Event:
    Event is Oct 22/23. We have been offered a 3x1m booth at no charge to raise student awareness of the local Digital Sector. Need to engage with employers to host them or their info on the stand.
  • Annual General Meetup:
    Plans are on track and the guest speaker is Sally Bogg from Leeds Beckett University who will speak on inclusion and diversity.
  • Individual Membership:
    Should we continue to offer individual membership, and, if so, how can we collectively build a stronger community? For example can we afford a part-time community manager? Would that be the right thing to do? What kind of person would that be? What would they actually do? Should we instead ringfence the individual membership contributions and use it to provide a fund for meetups, community events or meta-meetups?
    Decision to kick off an engagement project to seek more inclusive input on this, in conjunction with Sheffield Tech Parks.
  • National Centre for Ed Tech:
    Proposition drafted in conjunction with EdTech UK and shared with potential funders and stakeholders. Private sector support is forthcoming. Meeting in early October to seek equivalent public sector support.
  • Culture Declares Emergency:
    Request from Culture Consortium to support & participate. Will promote and share via Slack & Social.

September 18th – economy.SHF

economy.SHF is a regular open meeting for discussions around the local digital economy, chaired by Sam Chapman and facilitated by Growth Sheffield.

See the full Summary and papers along with previous meetings here:

Topics discussed:

  • Sheffield Digital Festival 2020
    Planning meeting to take place in November.
  • European City of the Year
    Down to 3 cities: Sheffield, Porto & Utrecht. Final bid was submitted and included ‘four pillars’ of Sheffield tech industry narrative. Bid collateral is available for partners to use in promotional efforts.
  • Business Sheffield support
    This now includes specialist support for tech & manufacturing businesses & alignment of “digital industrial sector”. Elements Technology are leading in this engagement, but there are opportunities for other tech firms to get involved in supporting digital transitions.
  • Non-exec board positions
    There is an initiative underway to open non-exec positions on local Manufacturing company boards specifically for tech company founders & execs, in order to increase knowledge exchange.
  • Digital Theatres
    Funding is being explored to address the lack of digitisation in Sheffield Theatres, aiming to support digital performance and digitisation (streaming) of theatre content.
  • Sheffield Digital Showcase
    Next event is on the 26th September.
  • Sheffield Digital and UK Tech Cluster Group
    SD are working with UK-TCG to influence national policy via Tech Nation and DCMS, particularly about how government engages and disseminates information on the ground.
  • Sheffield Tech Parks and AMRC
    Partnering to host a series of events to introduce smaller, more agile tech firms to larger manufacturers and provide them with access to their data and supply chains in order to increase innovation.
  • Sheffield IoT
    New meetup event produced by Ioetec in partnership with Pitch-In project at the University of Sheffield. First event October 2nd.
  • Global Challenge Fund
    Opportunities for up to £60k in 1st phase, £500k in second. Projects should be focused on achieving sustainable development goals by deploying tech in overseas projects.
  • Tech Set Go
    DCMS funded project to encourage more diversity in the tech sector is now up and running. Partnership between Sero Consulting, The Developer Academy and Bright Box.
  • TUoS Careers Event
    Event is 22/23 October. Sheffield Digital have a stand from which to promote local firms. Please get in touch to contribute.
  • Quarterly Briefing
    1st edition now printed. Plan is for physical copies to be sent out to national, regional & local policy makers; email version to be sent to members & SD newsletter subscribers; article content to be converted into posts; highlights to be converted into social media cards & posts. Ask is to contribute to distribution list; help dissemination; feedback on content & suggest topics; sponsor future issues.
  • National Centre for Educational Technologies
    Proposition put together by Sheffield Digital and EdTech UK to do scoping project in order to pave the way for Sheffield to be the National Centre for EdTech. Intended as a private/public collaboration. Private sector have committed resources, now seeking public sector match funding. Meeting in early October.
  • Skills Sub Group update
    Digital Skills Action Group has now met and is operating as a sub-group to economy.SHF (under the Terms of Reference). Initial focus is on higher level skills. Set of aims defined along with a list of key activities to progress.

September 19th – SHU Department of Computing: Industrial Advisory Board

These meetings are held every six months in order for the department to engage with employers on a range of policies to improve outcomes and employability. SHU’s Computing Department has over 1,800 students and is currently the 6th largest in the UK.

This is a summary covering non-embargoed topics:

  • Teaching Performance
    Sheffield Hallam has been named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year for Teaching Quality 2020.
    The citation in the Sunday Times Good University Guide for this Award says:”One of our big civic universities, Sheffield Hallam is enjoying something of a renaissance. Students have repeatedly given it good ratings for the quality of its teaching, but this year their assessments have propelled the university to a new high. Achieving sustained success in this area is hard, all the more so for a large – rather than niche – institution with 30,000 students. No university of a similar size delivers so well on teaching quality in our latest rankings.”
  • Student Recruitment
    Undergrad intake is generally very healthy. Expected to hit targets. Big growth in cyber. Downward trend in business-rated courses. Specialist courses are going up, generalist courses going down.
    Postgrad growth areas: big data analytics and conversion course.
    Degree apprentices: About 70-80 students in next intake.
    Now looking at adding level 7 apprenticeship in cyber.
  • Portfolio review
    looking at new BSc provision in the areas of;

    • Cyber Security
    • Financial Technology
    • Digital Forensics
    • Analytics
    • AI & Robotics.
  • Student Experience Outcomes
    Good results. Of most relevance to employers were questions around learning time and mentoring (degree apprenticeships).
    Feedback: often hard for employers to know how to support as they don’t know what the students are engaged in learning. Need to improve this communication.
  • Degree Apprenticeships
    Individual Employer Feedback
  • Hallam Model for highly skilled employability
    Work placements – need to find minimum 3 weeks for all students in every year. Half of 1st year intake has been covered, despite bigger than expected intake. Needed to widen definition of placement to include in-house residency at iLab & large cohorts to single employers.
    Sheffield Digital suggested exploring a platform to get more students placed in local firms, including smaller employers.
  • Advisory board review
    Feedback from review.
  • Careers Events
    SHU Careers fair 24th October.
    Stack event 19th Feb 2020

That’s it for September (there were more meetings, but these are the ones I have notes for and have been signed off – I’m sure we’ll get better at doing this!).

As mentioned, please do also ask about or comment on any of the topics covered by emailing or hitting us up on Slack or Twitter!