The scope of the panel’s research is timely with our own efforts to enhance the quality and provision of education for this age group. Skills are inextricably linked with the growth and development of the digital economy, and a strong link can be shown between higher education, higher salary levels and a successful digital sector. However, the Jersey Innovation Review 2015 concluded that access to the right talent and the skills in the workforce are a major constraining factor for Jersey’s innovation performance.
With this in mind, in November 2017 Digital Jersey worked with the Marchmont Observatory, an impartial research body at the University of Exeter with previous experience of education strategy, to conduct detailed interviews and analysis of the current pipeline of digital skills, training opportunities, and industry demand. In March 2018, in partnership with the research team, we launched the Digital Skills Strategy. The research paper revealed that:
- The number of students pursuing digital qualifications at all levels is insufficient to meet the island’s needs
- Education provision at A level/Level 3 provision is not satisfactory
- The provision of post-secondary opportunities for retraining and upskilling is insufficient
- Industry demand for digital skills exceeds supply significantly
- There is a strong tendency to expand abroad or to relocate once a digital business grows to about twenty staff
- The most common response to recruitment difficulties is to reduce the job specification. This suggests that businesses are operating with skills levels below the optimum
The recommendations in the Digital Jersey Skills Strategy include the creation of a Digital Skills Academy (Academy). The Academy is proposed as a focal point for industry and academia to work together, share resources, communicate, and ultimately to foster the island’s next generation of industry skills. This will be achieved by providing higher level training opportunities that branch into industry specialisms, such as digital marketing, coding and data analytics.
The Academy will deliver and oversee a program of initiatives, including:
- A Digital Skills Pathway: Working with partners for completeness of training pathways needed at all levels, consistent across schools/colleges into a career in the digital industries. This will provide clear career progression for applicants and will enable students to select study routes, secure well-paid jobs, and provide the digital skills needed by industry.
- Promote Digital studies and careers: Communicate opportunities through a variety of channels to school leavers, career changers, teachers, career advisers and key influencers. It will also encourage gender diversity.
- Facilitate Industry / Academic cooperation: Create opportunities for businesses to work with students (primarily Degree/PhD level) on product innovation. It will also better connect talent with employers.
- Create a physical Digital Skills Academy to undertake the activities outlined above: This will be independent of Government, with the flexibility to raise funds and a long-term ambition of becoming self-funding.