Local Digital Skills Partnership
I am Ben Bolton and I was recently appointed to the role of Digital Skills Partnership Coordinator for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Now, I appreciate that on paper that may sound a little dry, but nothing could be further from the truth. This role offers a great opportunity to work with a wide range of proactive and innovative stakeholders, in a sector with unprecedented opportunities. The digital sector will play a huge role in driving economic growth and I am delighted to be able to play a small part in ensuring we produce the skills required to make this a reality.
My career to date has largely been focused on developing and implementing strategy and fostering collaboration. Most recently, I have been working with partners to research the impact of technology and social media on young people’s mental health. One of my key findings was that the many positive aspects of technology are being lost in the race to find the negative headline. The digital world gives young people an unparalleled opportunity develop skills for the future workforce, but this message is not being heard.
I am pleased to report that a huge amount has already happened. Every day, I am hearing more about the fantastic work already underway in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and it is clear that we are not starting this partnership from scratch. The sector has a rich history of skills development and innovation. Despite this, there are still significant skills shortages that are impacting productivity and growth as well as a lack of inclusion. The DSP will clearly need to address this challenge.
On the 9 May, we delivered a Launch event with over 100 stakeholders attending. The event was a roaring success and the level of engagement in the room was contagious. If this event is an indication of the enthusiasm of this sector, the future looks incredibly bright for the CIoS DSP. The Minister, Margot James recorded an informative video for the event and Faith la Grange from Microsoft gave an engaging keynote speech with some of the key objectives of the DSP, clearly also close to her heart. The event also provided the opportunity to showcase some of the existing work of local partners.
I am very impressed with the fantastic work underway in Cornwall, but I absolutely believe the DSP has a role to play. Whilst there is an encouraging amount of activity in the sector, there appears to be little in the way of clear overarching strategy and focus. There is always the danger of trying to do everything but in reality, doing nothing. The DSP must avoid this trap and bring focus and strategic intent.
I believe the success of the DSP will be based upon its ability to drive systems change. Rather than bring in additional training, we need to focus our efforts on understanding why the current approach is not delivering and seek to redesign this in a coordinated and sustainable way. The ultimate goal is to deliver a home-grown skills pipeline and break down some of the barriers to engagement. It won’t be easy or quick, but I am convinced that the DSP will play a fundamental role in meeting this challenge.