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Digital Skills Partnership - some initial observations

As a few weeks have now passed since my first blog I thought it was time for an update. I am sad to say that opportunities to play the ‘new boy card’ are becoming less and less frequent, but on the whole, your support has been very much appreciated in my early weeks.

The last blog posts came just a few days into the role so was little more than an introduction. Since this time, I have had the opportunity to meet many people and organisation both locally and nationally so I thought it would be a good idea to share what I have learnt.  

Initial observations…

As expected, I have witnessed first hand the excellent work underway in Cornwall. The CIoS DSP will definitely not be starting from scratch. I am so impressed and encouraged by the culture that exists within our tech sector. Without exception, everyone I meet is keen to engage and play their part. This bodes well for the future as the DSP must be industry led and focused on collaboration.

Common Themes

Despite the very different conversations to date, there are definitely some common themes. These are not scientific or based upon a robust research methodology, they are my observations. It is also fair to any that many of these won’t be a surprise if you are working in and around the digital skills arena.

  • The term ‘Digital Skills’ means very different things to different people. We are often talking at cross purposes.
  • How can we get more people (both young and slightly older) interested in digital skills? We are simply not getting enough people interested to meet the current demand.
  • How can we change the image of the sector and demonstrate the variety, dynamism and opportunity digital skills can provide in Cornwall.
  • There are still far too many people in Cornwall who have never engaged with technology, as a result being excluded from services and communities. The remaining barriers are often complex and extend far beyond digital skills.
  • Digital skills are not talked about enough, anywhere… Digital skills open MANY doors, they do not limit options. This message appears to be lost on young people, parents and indeed people influencing the future workforce.
  • Women in tech sector are hugely under represented. This is not unique to Cornwall but it is a huge opportunity for Cornwall.
  • Digital and tech are too often seen as a stand alone sector. The key is to embed digital and tech across all sectors as an enabler.

Digital Skills as an enabler…

The final point is an interesting one. One of the key observations to date is the importance of digital skills as enabler across the economy as a whole. Digital Inclusion and the development specialist skills are undoubtedly important and will be important for the DSP. However, my conversations to date have demonstrated that developing skills to enable digital transformation across all sectors cannot be ignored and could potentially have a massive impact in the future productivity in the LEP area.

What next?

When considering the list of common themes, it is clear that the DSP has some tough decisions ahead. We could try and achieve everything and end up achieving nothing, so prioritisation and focus will be critical to our success.

Last month we held a stakeholder meeting to discuss the vision and priorities for the CIoS DSP. Much of the conversation related to the challenges I mentioned earlier in this piece. In my next blog, I will present the findings and talk a little more about the formal partnership, what we seek to achieve and how we will work. There are definitely exciting times ahead.

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