There is a significant global shortage of digital skills, with an estimated 900,000 unfilled ICT (Information Computer Technology) vacancies in the EU alone (European Commission). In this blog, I’ll cover how global pressures on digital skills are impacting Jersey’s growth in the sector, and what Digital Jersey is doing to grow a pipeline of specialist skills on-island.
Jersey feels the global pressure on digital skills acutely. Like many islands, we have a small population with a relatively transient workforce and a tendency for young people to move away. These pressures are more challenging in our digital sector due to: a lack of options for studying digital specialisms on-island, a risk-averse population policy and a mature finance industry who are good at attracting the best talent straight from school.
For these reasons, Digital Jersey is working harder than ever to improve the pipeline of digital skills in Jersey. It helps that we already have a good working relationship with the Population Office and that our digital licence scheme has proven successful (see here), but more should be done to attract and retain top tech talent. Over the coming months we will look to reflect best practice abroad and at home by launching an entrepreneur scheme modelled on successful programs from elsewhere (see here).
At the same time, more needs to be done at home to change the negative perception that drives some young adults away from the Industry. The Digital Sector suffers from a reputation characterised as “male-oriented” and “geeky” with long working hours and little social life. These perceptions lead to a lack of awareness of employment opportunities available within the sector, something that appears to be the case for women especially; just 15% of digital technology roles were female-occupied in 2011 even though 45% of women made up the overall Jersey workforce.
Accordingly, Digital Jersey has a role in enhancing public awareness of career opportunities in the digital sector. We currently do this via the jobs board on the Digital Jersey Hub’s website and the London Office diaspora channels, as well as our marketing collateral used at events such as the Careers Fair, which details a number of career paths.
However, more still needs to be done, so we are looking to re-energise our approach to changing perceptions, a key example being our work with parents and teachers to distribute information on the benefits to considering a career in the sector. We will also look to raise the profile of local digital businesses to celebrate their successes and the innovation already going on beneath the surface.
We must also make sure there are no gaps in the digital training landscape, and nowhere is this more needed than in higher education. We are working with UCJ on a Digital Degree Apprenticeship programme tailored to the needs of the local digital sector. These courses are flexible and could also be taught as individual CPD modules, for one-off study, which would complement the courses being run at the Hub. Additionally, we are exploring how online training courses (such as MOOCS) can be encouraged in Jersey, and how we could help overcome their high drop-out rate by creating a structure that supports students working together on-island.
To bring scale, credibility and longevity to these themes, we are seeking to develop an institutional framework as the focal point for industry and academia to: work together, share resources, apply research to real-life scenarios, and turn ideas into commercial ventures. This would enhance the Island’s capacity for research and development, it would make Jersey a more desirable location to invest in and relocate to than similar locations, and would grow a pipeline of specialist skills to meet the needs of Industry.
If you would like to get involved in advancing digital skills in Jersey or indeed any of the activities Digital Jersey are working on check out our Membership options at: https://www.digital.je/membership/join.