Post-pandemic and post-Brexit, skills and recruitment are one of the biggest challenges currently facing various industries not only in our region but across the country – from hospitality to construction to tech.
Following on from our last session in September which focused on the digital skills challenges in West Sussex, on Monday 12th December the Coastal West Sussex Skills and Enterprise Group met to hear about new digital skills programmes in the county and discuss ways to collaborate to tackle the skills and recruitment challenges facing local businesses.
Dan Wallman, managing director at TechNative Digital and stakeholder lead for Digital and Creative, Cultural and Visitor Economy for Sussex Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), introduced the session with some statistics to demonstrate how West Sussex is leading the way on the number of digital jobs available: in October 2022, only the health and social care sector had more job postings in the county than digital jobs, according to data from Lightcast. The median advertised salary for advanced digital skills roles in West Sussex was £41.7k.
Challenges identified in the LSIP Deep Dive into Digital Skills report included:
- An industry shortage of developers and coders
- A lack of diversity in digital
- Difficulties attracting and retaining teaching staff with up-to-date industry knowledge
- Qualifications becoming quickly out-of-date and unable to meet the fast-changing needs of the sector
- Difficulties in accessing work placements in digital.
The group heard from three speakers on new programmes set up to combat the digital skills gap in West Sussex and respond directly to the challenges identified in the LSIP report.
Richard Freeman, chief executive of local strategic consultancy always possible, introduced the Digital Futures West Sussex programme, which launched in September and will run until at least March 2024.
Through a robust campaign and a series of interactive events across the county, the programme aims to inspire jobseekers and people at all stages of their careers to discover the range of digital roles available in West Sussex, to connect local businesses with talented jobseekers and increase aspiration for digital careers in the county.
Digital Futures West Sussex is jointly funded by West Sussex County Council and the West Sussex District and Borough Councils and led by always possible, with support from Midnight Communications and three Digital Futures ambassadors. These three ambassadors – with one selected from coastal, urban and rural areas in West Sussex – will be champions for the programme and come from local businesses with a need for advanced digital skills – therefore bringing their own experience and knowledge of the challenges facing businesses.
Beginning in early 2023, Digital Futures West Sussex will be running information hubs in various venues across West Sussex to provide guidance to jobseekers and anyone with an interest in digital skills, highlighting job opportunities, courses and entry routes into digital roles. Roadshows will follow later in the year, bringing together businesses, digital career specialists and training providers.
The campaign aims to put West Sussex on the map as a leading digital county, showcasing opportunities for digital roles across different sectors – and will help retain graduates and talented jobseekers and attract career shifters/returners from inside and outside the county.
Digital Futures West Sussex is calling for people to get involved – from education providers or businesses with a need for digital skills, or career seekers. Visit www.digitalfuturesws.co.uk for more information.
Paul Rolfe, associate principal for employers and stakeholders at Chichester College Group (CCG), then shared news about the Sussex & Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) – a new project led by the CCG in partnership with the University of Sussex, University of Brighton and North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot).
The IoT will include a new state-of-the-art centre at Crawley College, with construction set to begin in spring 2023, subject to planning – and other specialist sites across the region, plus cutting-edge facilities for higher technical education with a focus on digital and sustainable technologies.
The IoT will provide a central organisation to connect different industries, with a Curriculum and Innovation Board set up to plug gaps in teaching, with employers feeding into this.
The aim is to address skills shortages at Levels 4 and 5 across the STEM subjects, break down barriers to digital and increase access to higher education, facilitate collaboration between education providers and deliver new education provision based on up-to-date employer needs.
Paul is particularly keen to connect with careers advisors across West Sussex to raise awareness about the IoT and digital opportunities.
On behalf of Further Education Sussex, Chris Davies shared news about the CODES project – a new programme born out of the LSIP recommendations, designed to provide free digital skills courses for those aged 19 and over to meet the latest employer requirements.
With government funding, nine Centres of Digital Excellence (CODEs) with state-of-the-art technology will be run by colleges across West and East Sussex, with free modular courses. Starting in January 2023, training will be provided online and in person in key digital shortage areas, including VR, coding, cyber security and agritech.
While the project will finish in March 2023, colleges will be able to continue offering courses, with some remaining free for ages 16 – 19 going forward.
CWSP director Caroline Wood rounded off the meeting by inviting those involved in all three programmes to have regular meetings and to collaborate in signposting people to opportunities, sharing each other’s news online on social media and newsletters and through in-person events.
The Skills & Enterprise Group will next meet in spring 2023.