Sheffield Digital is working on a plan to make 2023 a “year of talent and skills”, with a focus on activities to help address the talent and skills gap for the region’s tech businesses. We know we can’t fix everything in a year and this needs to be a long-term effort, but we hope that we can work with the Sheffield Digital community to make some positive progress in the short term too.
Ever since we set up Sheffield Digital, and even before then, tech businesses have been telling us they have a problem with talent and skills. This problem has multiple facets, including:
- A mis-match between the skills of people coming into the market and the needs of local businesses.
- A chronic lack of diversity in people coming into the sector.
- Difficulty recruiting mid and senior level talent.
- Education and training options (such as apprenticeships) that are difficult for businesses (especially small and micro ones) to take advantage of.
- No visible pipeline of future talent and no obvious plan for creating that pipeline.
- No clear pathway for people to discover and prepare themselves for careers in digital tech.
We have also found that, when we talk to educational organisations and to policy makers, there is insufficient data about the talent needs of businesses or about the local digital jobs market from both a business and individual perspective.
What can/might we do about this?
It’s important to acknowledge that there is already some great work going on. Many businesses are providing work placements and internships, going into classrooms to work with young people, getting involved in shaping courses and providing student projects. Recently, we’ve also seen a few businesses set up their own training initiatives, either in-house or in collaboration with further education. But there is a significant overhead for businesses to do this kind of work and that can make it difficult for smaller organisations to get involved.
Within the ‘Talent23’ (T23) campaign, we would like to focus on a selection of achievable initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to build on their existing activities or get involved for the first time. We want to include as many businesses as possible and help businesses to work together and see that they are part of a wider talent ecosystem in the region. Anything we can do will benefit all of us in the long term, as well as providing more opportunities to more people.
Ideas and how you can get involved
Here is our initial list of ideas and how businesses can get involved. If you’ve got other ideas or suggestions, please let us know by emailing Emma Marshall.
Better data – skills audit and training provision audit
Yes, this will probably involve another survey, but we feel it’s really important to start collecting some robust data in a way that we can repeat year on year. This will help us to explain what businesses need to education and training providers and policy makers, and will help identify trends and highlight areas to concentrate on. We’ll probably do something similar to Manchester Digital’s Skills Audit, provided we can find a way to keep it simple to run.
We get a lot of requests from education for input from businesses, and we expect that businesses get a lot of requests too. To save having to reach out to a new group of people every time and to help create continuity, we would like to set up an Employers’ Forum from our membership made up of people particularly interested in the skills agenda and willing to give time to feed into initiatives, speak to education and training providers etc. Dave Forrester from Siemens (formerly Lightworks) has offered to lead on this, so if you would like to be involved, please get in touch with Dave.
Share best practise
Seeing examples of what other people are doing is a great way to inspire people to take a first step or try something new. We’d like to start collecting and sharing stories about what companies are already doing to address talent issues. We will be reaching out to our members to find out what you are doing but please don’t wait to hear from us. If you have examples you can share, please let us know.
We want to make it much easier for businesses to help inspire the next generation of talent by engaging with schools in our region. In Sheffield, we plan to work in collaboration with the team at the City Council that runs the See It Be It campaign. Our objective will be to provide a simple way for businesses to find out what schools need, make a connection that is right for them and create experiences that work well for both the business and the students. Once things are running smoothly in Sheffield, we will explore similar connections with the other local authorities in the region.
Help you take the next step
If every organisation in our membership reached a little bit further down the talent pipeline, it could make a huge difference to the depth of skills that students and graduates enter the jobs market with. So we’ll be running a campaign to encourage businesses to take the next step in engaging with the talent pipeline, and supporting them to do so.
Work with policy makers
We know that policy makers at both the local authority and combined authority levels are interested in digital skills and in supporting the growth of the region’s tech industry. We will continue to foster strong relationships with them so that we can feed in your views and help them to understand our industry and its needs, and so that we can keep you updated on their plans.
T23 will run from March 2023 to March 2024. Our next steps include creating a content plan for the year ahead with input from our partners and Associate Sponsors, and to begin work on the skills and training provision audit.
By the end of our campaign, we hope the legacy of T23 will include a number of initiatives that continue to run, growing the talent ecosystem and continuously providing more opportunities to more people. This success depends on pro-activity from our members, so please don’t hold back in telling us your ideas for T23, and participating in any ways you are able – this is all about paving the way for a strong talent pipeline that will benefit us all.