Mind the gap: How to solve the digital skills crisis in Leeds

Written by Jack Johnson, Digital Skills HQ

In recent times, there’s been growing concerns about a potential shortage of digital skills across the entire country.

It’s no secret that digital technologies have become one of the UK’s major industries, contributing almost £120 billion a year to the economy and employing in excess of a million people. However, with the number of digital businesses increasing every year, the demand for a digitally-skilled workforce has never been so high… and there’s nothing to suggest that it’s going to stop either.

One area of the country that’s desperately in need of online skills is Leeds, the self-proclaimed ‘Digital Capital of The North’. The northern powerhouse is home to a plethora of well-respected digital agencies, international multimedia conglomerates and exciting tech start-ups but there’s a worrying lack of digital professionals to meet the area’s business needs. And unfortunately, well-trained digital marketers don’t grow on trees, despite what people may believe.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that they do, though; what with the number of users of social media users likely to be as high as three billion by 2020. Surely this generation of digital ‘natives’, who’ve grown-up with Facebook status, memes and live-streaming would be digital experts in the making? But it’s not as simple as that.

In fact, the same goes for people who have gone into online marketing after studying journalism or one of the more creative subjects at university and now find themselves running a company website, blog or social media channels. These ‘natives’ might have enough nous to get by living in a technologically-driven world but they rarely have what it takes to bring tangible benefits to a business. Not without training, at least.

When this topic was discussed at a recent salon I attended, digital leaders from across Yorkshire’s business community seemed to be in favour of upskilling existing members of the workforce – and one way this could be achieved is by undertaking the new Digital Marketing Apprenticeship.

Unlike with the old framework, the new Apprenticeship standards have been devised by a network of employers to create a programme of study that would make their students into digital marketing leaders of the future, thanks to the first class training they receive during the 18-month course.

Digital Marketing Apprenticeships are available to people who already have a degree to their name and it doesn’t have any upper age limits, so it’s perfect for a digital enthusiast or a graduate who wants to re-train and specialise in an exciting vocation. What’s more, they’re among the among the UK’s highest paid apprenticeships of 2017, according to a recent article in The Guardian. So disgruntled workers wouldn’t be out of pocket if they did decide to re-train. The salaries in digital marketing are more than ‘competitive’.

And if you’re an employer yourself, take note; as you’ll receive £8,100 from the government towards the training of your own in-house digital marketing expert.

Whichever route that businesses chose – either upskilling the existing workforce or re-moulding millennials – the digital community agree that time to act is now.

Jack Johnson is from Digital Skills HQ in Leeds, visit www.digitalskillshq.co.uk

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