Digital for all

Written by Tracy Westall , Non-Executive Director for the Department of Transport (DfT)

Tracy Westall has been announced as the Digital Leaders West Midlands local champion 2018. Tracy has been in Digital & Technology for over 30 years. She was a NED for GBSLEP responsible for Stimulating Innovation, a member of the Smart City Commission, Birmingham Science City, Smart City Alliance, Tech UK, Innovation Birmingham and initiated DL West Midlands. Currently a Governor at BCU, a NED for the DfT and a Member of the West Midlands Digital Advisory Board.

As a proud brummie, I love where I am from. I love the heritage, tradition, work ethic and creativeness that’s shaped the region I call home. Walking around this unrecognisable city , I marvel at how far we have come.

I even love my accent which thanks to Cillian Murphy and the “Peaky Blinders” is, now dare I say, slightly cool!

It’s no surprise to me that according to the latest Tech Nation 2018 report the Birmingham cluster now has 41,550 Digital jobs and a sector generating £2.2b. Innovation is not new to us; after all the West Midlands is the home of the last Industrial Revolution so the fact that we are playing our part in the new “digital tech” revolution makes absolute sense.

To build on this and play our part, it’s important we have the skills. We know there is a major digital skills shortage across the UK and the West Midlands is no different. If you believe, like me, most companies are tech businesses in some way; whether that’s software programming, content, design etc, then it doesn’t take a genius to work out that tackling skills is vital. It’s a recurring theme that access to skills is a major barrier for SME growth so there are plenty of reasons why this is just sound business sense.

Given it’s such a big issue – how do we solve it? The good news is we are all talking about it – constantly. The even better news is there are plenty of people doing things to fix it or at least move the dial and that we aren’t just looking at the traditional players to solve the problem. The tech sector is also stepping up.

Check out the fabulous School of Code, the brainchild of Chris Meah, a technology entrepreneur, delivering training to a range of people who maybe wouldn’t have considered undertaking digital skills but importantly have secured new jobs because of it. 

Check out Digital Innov8ers developed by ex tech sector Director, Mick Westman working with Solihull College to provide 16+ with practical and real business skills underpinned by digital capability. The results are amazing and humbling especially as some of these youngsters would certainly have fallen through the skills cracks. Credit to the companies who have spotted their potential and employed them.

Check out the DigiSheds Smart Skills Engine programme being developed by Founder CEO, Alex Cole leveraging a catalogue of services and technologies to close the digital skills gap. Specifically targeting those ‘new collar” jobs future proofing our digital and non digital sectors. A game changing approach!

And there are more I’m sure. I have been lucky to see these ones up close and am inspired.

Reaching different audiences with different skill needs with the common aim of making sure no one gets digitally left behind can only be a good thing.

Making sure we have all the skills we need to be part of the “tech revolution”. Now that’s something worth shouting about.


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