Coun Susan Hinchcliffe: Making sure workforce is digital-ready

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Take some time to read about the digital revolution that is already changing the way we live and you will receive some very mixed messages.

On the one hand we are bombarded with adverts for the latest electronic devices and ways to use them which, we are promised, will transform our lives for the better. But on the other, we are warned that advancing technology and in particular artificial intelligence, pose a grave threat to jobs and therefore livelihoods.

DIGITAL: The digital revolution is having an impact across many industries.

DIGITAL: The digital revolution is having an impact across many industries.

No doubt the jobs market is changing, we need to make sure that we have the skills to secure the jobs that will be created in the future as some jobs will disappear.

We also do not hear enough about the new, better, and more productive jobs that the digital revolution will create.

The real risk from the digital revolution is not from the advance in technology itself but from how prepared, or not, we are to take advantages of the new opportunities it will bring.

According to the Northern Tech 100 report by Tech North, Leeds City Region is home to 23 of the fastest growing technology businesses in the North. In addition, the region boasts the highest number of scale-up digital companies outside the South East and is outstripping Bristol and Manchester for employment growth in digital and creative industries.

Research also suggests the Leeds City Region’s position in this area is similar to many other regions in the country in terms of the shortage we face in digital skills. According to the UK network for tech entrepreneurs half of the UK’s digital tech community are concerned about a shortage of highly skilled employees and nearly a quarter have described sourcing talent as a “major challenge”.

With more than 102,000 people currently working in the region’s digital sector and 15,000 new job openings expected in digital occupations across the Leeds City Region over the next seven years we need to make sure the region’s workforce is digital-ready.

Our new Discover Digital campaign is one of the ways we are doing just that. Through a new website, https://discoverdigital.org.uk/, we are providing information about training opportunities, connecting people with potential employers and showcasing inspiring stories of people who have moved into digital careers.

The campaign sets out to demystify the digital sector, explaining the reality behind job titles such as “scrum master” and “DevOps Engineer” while showing how language and mathematics skills used in other jobs could help people make the move into a digital career.

It also explains how the digital revolution is having an impact across many industries with retail, finance and banking among the sectors represented.

Importantly, this campaign confronts the idea that digital skills are only for our young people.

If this region is to maximise the benefits of the digital revolution we need people at all stages of their career thinking about how they can train to succeed in these exciting times.

I would urge anyone whether they are planning a career change, wanting to up-skill or have recently graduated to visit the Discover Digital website and find out how they can be part of this hugely successful and growing field.

To find out more about how you could access a career in digital go to https://discoverdigital.org.uk/

Coun Susan Hinchliffe, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council