In line with Bristol Digital Week taking place 16-20 October 2017, we catch up with individuals leading the way in digital and tech in the region to capture their views on skills in the digital sector and where the future is headed.
We chat to Gabriella Cox, digital & creative sector lead for EEN, as part of our 'Bristol Digital Leaders' interview series.
Tell us about your role and EEN?
I coordinate the digital and creative sector in the West of England, working across sector and special interest groups and with individual SMEs, helping them with their innovation and technology commercialisation. Enterprise Europe Network is the world’s largest business network, made up of over 3000 advisers over 65 countries. EEN helps businesses across the world to innovate, grow and establish the connections they need to succeed.
From an education, skills and training perspective, what does the digital sector look like?
Changeable. We are somewhat on the cusp of an educational reform. The rate at which universities traditionally develop their syllabuses is no longer sufficient, as the digital world progresses much faster. With this in mind, Creative Europe has recently released 1.5m euro in funding to develop new relevant masters programmes and apprenticeships are becoming the new method for young digital advocates to push forward in their careers.
Do you have any skills gaps in your business?
I would love to say that as a fully funded entity, we are always on top of skills and training, but in some ways I believe we can only strive to breach the skills gap, as it’s somewhat impossible to ever achieve it. With every innovation, comes potential revelations in business efficiency; new systems and software that are beyond the knowledge of current employees. However, something we at EEN do have is the capacity to spot innovation and help integrate it, both within the companies we work with and within EEN as a whole.
Do you think there are skills gaps in the digital sector overall?
Yes and no. With a digitally native youth now steadily joining companies, there is a higher take up of new digital systems and digital transformation than ever before. That said, with a digitally native younger population, traditional skills are being lost. In a world where most emails go unanswered, it certainly pays to have someone in your organisation who isn’t afraid to pick up the phone and talk to clients. I wouldn’t say that the sector lacks skills overall, but I would say that companies need to build a culture of peer learning and collaboration.
Most businesses I work with identify at least one area that their business could grow if they had the right skills, but few will look to collaborate with other organisations who have that skill to breach the gap. Instead, they compete with these organisations, targeting the same audience and both expecting to achieve business growth. Collaboration is the only real way to grow your business, not competition.
If we don’t fill skills gaps, where do you think the digital sector is headed?
Not far. The UK is known for its digital skill and is a fair few years ahead of most. If we fail to fill the skills gap, then other countries will no longer look to us for best practise and will be less interested in collaborating with us.
What can we do to make the most of the digital talent in the region?
Employ them and ask them to teach other employees! Traditionally companies will employ those who have already held relevant positions in other organisations, but in a world of bedroom programmers, work experience is no longer a prerequisite to success. Are traditional recruitment formats suitable for the modern candidate? We must establish new ways to test the skills of candidates outside the current model.
About Gabriella Cox
Gabbi, coordinates the digital and creative sector, working with both sector and special interest groups and individual SMEs, assisting them with their innovation and technology commercialisation. Gabbi previously worked with the Department of International Trade in Brussels and on the International Festival of Business.
Bristol Digital Week
Check out the series of events taking place during Bristol Digital Week 2017, together with partners BBC Academy, Open Doors, Venturefest and Bristol Festival of Ideas.
Read more interviews with individuals leading the way in digital in the region from our Bristol Digital Leaders series:-
- Q&A with Luke Aikman, CEO at Nudge Digital
- Q&A with Lidia Drzewiecka, founder of Visuable
- Q&A with Nick Dean, MD at ADLIB
- Q&A with Oli Ward, founder of Develop Me
Have you thought about skills development?
Whether it's up-skilling your existing workforce or bringing in an apprentice, our Skills West team can help you ensure your business has the skilled individuals to achieve business growth.