Heart of the South West launches new Digital Skills Partnership to drive growth and skills in Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.
The Heart of the South West Digital Skills Partnership was launched this week, to bring together businesses, charities, the education sector and public-sector organisations to tackle local digital skills challenges to build thriving and inclusive local economies.
The Heart of the South West is one of two areas in the country to benefit from being designated as a Local Digital Skills Partnership pilot area, set up by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The launch event at Plymouth Science Park included a video address from the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, and keynote speeches from leading figures from the digital arena, plus it was the first public engagement for the LEP’s new chief executive, David Ralph, who took up his post with the Heart of the South West LEP last week.
Over 50 businesses that are recognised as excelling in the digital sector attended, and leading protagonist for bringing about this partnership, Julie Hawker of Cosmic, chaired a lively panel discussion about digital skills in action. Reflecting on the event, the panel agreed that developing the digital skills of both business leaders and individuals could only be done through partnership working.
Presentations included Stephen Noaks of Lloyds Bank who explained the wide range of support the bank is bringing to developing digital skills; Mike Dieroff of BluecreenIT who presented on their work to develop the IT security skills needed to improve cyber security and strengthening cyber-crime awareness; Alisa Willows of Wolferstan Solicitors who shared her experience of the fundamental changes that digital brings to business practices; David White of White Bruce Development on how the use of intelligent data analytics has formed business strategy to improve competitive edge; Justin Dewhirst of Freeformers whose inspiring presentation outlined their mission to build a digital economy for all by creating a future workforce and training 50,000 18-30 year olds in the UK by 2020; and Zeshan Sattar of Comptia who gave a compelling insight into the effects of IT skills gaps on business and how they can be addressed. In his opening address, HotSW LEP Chief Executive David Ralph said that there is no time to waste if this area is to be a partner with government to help to increase productivity and prosperity.
A video address was made for the event from Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries. The Minister added: “This government is committed to improving the digital skills of people from all ages and backgrounds to make sure that no-one gets left behind. A Digital Skills Partnership in the South West will help employers plan for the future, recruit a skilled workforce and boost the region’s economy.”
Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley CBE DL, said: “The launch of the HotSW Digital Skills Partnership was a resounding success. The enthusiasm and expertise of the partners will ensure rapid effects of this new programme will be harnessed very quickly.
“This area has a lot to gain and a lot to contribute. We’ve got thriving companies across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay that are already leading the field as exemplars of digital knowledge. We’ve also got much potential for growth as many businesses are not reaching their full potential for productivity by deploying the right digital skills, and this has been recognised by the business community themselves, our opportunities for improvement have been recognised by Government.
“The Heart of the South West Digital Skills Partnership will enable us to harness these new opportunities and drive forward productivity for all.”