For Bristol Digital Week 2017, we catch up with individuals leading the way in digital and tech in Bristol to capture their views on skills in the digital sector and where the future is headed.
We talk to Oli Ward, founder and instructor at Develop Me, as part of our 'Bristol Digital Leaders' Q&A series.
Tell us about your business and what it does?
Develop Me work to address technical skill shortages in the South West’s digital and creative industries.
We offer training from 1 day workshops and short courses to our 12 week web developer bootcamp, the Coding Fellowship.
It is through this bootcamp that Develop Me is helping aspiring web developers get the industry-relevant skills they need and join the job market.
From an education, skills and training perspective, what does the digital sector look like?
With no formal education route into web development and related roles there is significantly more demand for skilled workers than there are people to fill those roles, add to this the rapid pace of change of web and app technologies, and it’s not surprising that access to the right skills is the main factor holding back the region's tech businesses.
The lack of traditional education options has led to a lot of self-taught web developers from related IT and media roles taking on these positions.
Things are starting to change now there are better online training resources, more awareness of web development as a rewarding career route, as well as intensive short-form courses like our bootcamp.
However, there is still a long way to go until we are training up sufficient talent to serve the needs of the rapidly growing digital industries in the UK.
Do you have any skills gaps in your business?
Not really. We work with industry-leading web developers who teach on our course, and constantly work to update our course content and the instructors who teach on it, to ensure our programme is always teaching relevant skills.
Do you think there are skills gaps in the digital sector overall?
Absolutely, and not just from lack of skilled web developers.
One of our beliefs is that digital skills are relevant to every industry and every job role.
Every company looking to survive will need to deal with this fact as the web, technology and automation continue to become a larger part of our lives.
If we don’t fill skills gaps, where do you think the digital sector is headed?
The biggest risk is the UK digital sectors failing to compete with those in Europe, as well as being slower to innovate and make the most of new opportunities, especially those in emerging technology spaces.
This will be especially significant to the UK economy as we look to leave the EU, and with the UK economy being heavily service-based.
What can we do to make the most of the digital talent in the region?
We would ask companies to support aspiring talent as much as possible, offering junior positions and training programmes, as well as engaging with the region’s education providers, to ensure they are teaching the skills that companies actually need.
Oli Ward has worked for 10 years running web development teams and projects, primarily for digital agencies. His first-hand experience in building and training teams led to the foundation of digital trainers Develop Me, to help address the region's technical skills shortages.
Bristol Digital Week
Check out the series of events taking place during Bristol Digital Week 2017 (16-20 Oct), 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:-