The North East's burgeoning digital and tech sector is made up of around 1,600 businesses ranging from large, multinational powerhouses to agile, fast-growing SMEs. Its economic value defined by GVA contribution per head has grown by 14.9% in the space of a year according to latest official figures double the UK average.
The pace of growth could be quickened further after the Government recently launched its plan to keep Britain at the forefront of the digital revolution. The aim is to provide millions of free tech-based training opportunities and create five international technology hubs in emerging markets to keep UK firms competitive.
This represents an opportunity for North East companies to expand further and win lucrative contracts but many are struggling to find suitably skilled staff to service existing workloads. However, a pioneering scheme is providing a work-ready pipeline of talent for firms to ensure they don’t miss out.
IT training provider DevAcademy is working with Gateshead College to train young and adult candidates in the use of some of the latest software packages being used by digital and creative tech companies.
An intensive six-week accelerator course, jointly designed by DevAcademy and Gateshead College, covered the fundamentals required for entry-level posts as developers, testers, support analysts and other tech roles. Candidates aged from 18 into their mid-forties developed skills and knowledge in Agile methodologies, project management and UX/UI design.
The first successful cohort of 23 people graduated from their course run by Gateshead College at the end of 2016 and around 40% of them have now been offered employment in various North East businesses. Advice and assistance is also being given to those still searching for suitable roles.
Rachel Peacock, managing director of the DevAcademy, said: “We’re delighted with the results of this first cohort from Gateshead College. We found the teaching staff highly flexible and responsive to our requirements along with the needs of individual students.
“Once successfully trained we start matching candidates to our clients with live vacancies. Candidates are also given multiple interviews and chances to meet decision-makers in blue-chip companies or smaller businesses in the area.
“There is no cost to the candidate for the course; and employers enjoy the benefit of a try before you buy’ status. If a company wishes to, they can offer a permanent role to a candidate after the initial period of working for DevAcademy.”
John Deary, curriculum operations manager at Gateshead College, said: “Candidates on this accelerator programme are taught softer skills as well as the technical, making them better equipped for the workplace.
“This bespoke programme is a great example of how Gateshead College is tailoring courses for specific industry sectors and needs. Candidates learn a mixture of skills that are not necessarily curriculum-based or qualification-driven.”
Following the success of the first phase of the scheme, DevAcademy intends to run other courses with Gateshead College and discussions are underway to bring on board a second and third cohort of students. Another goal is to roll out the concept in other parts of the UK a move that would bring significant benefits to the national economy.
Workshops that introduce people to the world of computer coding are set to be held at Gateshead College in the summer, while attempts are being made to inspire more children to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school, college and university.