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Spanning Jersey's digital skills divide... the data-led way

Posted: Thursday 4 March 2021

Imagine a world where what’s taught to students during their education matched the skills employers required from their workforce.

You might expect that’s precisely how things currently work, but in reality there’s a growing skills gap. It’s not unique to Jersey, but the island’s approach to properly identifying the problem and coming up with the right solutions certainly is.

Digital Jersey and Skills Jersey have been working together with Geek Talent, to dig deep into this issue, to park preconceptions, and to use a data-led approach to joining the dots of this digital divide.

It began with something we told you about last year, our Labour Market Report, which studied thousands of job adverts and CVs to assess the scale of the match or mismatch.

Having done that, and having established there was a gap between what skills employers were looking for and the skills potential employees had, we took things to the next step to plot precisely where within the education system these skills were being taught.

And this is where you may be surprised.

Dominic Murphy, Founder of Geek Talent, explained the findings from this latest work:

“We looked at both what you might consider technical or ‘obvious’ digital skills, but also dug deep into softer skills such as project stakeholder management, prototyping, data governance, and visualisation, using a set of standards listed in the Digital Data and Technology Framework which is now being used by the UK government, alongside another used by the World Economic Forum.

By doing so we identified a range of skills most needed by employers in Jersey right now: digital, creativity and innovation, agility and flexibility, data, resilience, change skills, leadership and management, collaborative skills, communication, and problem solving, and overlaid them with the curriculum across a range of subjects to see which courses are best at delivering them.

The big surprise was that while the Computing course came out well from this cross-match, it was actually Design Technology which came out at ahead of it at number one. Geography was third, followed by Computer Science, History, Business, and Physics.

Your first instinct may be to put all your effort into that best match course (Design Technology) but you also need to consider where the biggest and fastest wins are, which means that while 36 post-16 students studied DT in 2019, 175 studied Business, with 124 studying Psychology which also – perhaps surprisingly – had a lot of skills overlaps.

While a common theme when speaking to people in education is to create something brand new, the reality is that takes many years longer than adapting existing courses, meaning the effects can be seen within two to three years.

For most courses, that doesn’t mean needing to ditch relationships with existing examination providers, merely using local autonomy to adapt the content of the course to meet Jersey’s specific skills requirements.

There is one course which does appear to be the exception to that broad rule, and that is Computing. It is a course which really does appear to be drifting away from the skillset industry needs and there is an opportunity for Jersey to look at this one afresh.”

This is where the Digital Skills Partnership Group, a collaboration between education and industry is working closely to make progress. A lot of work has been done already, but there is still much more to do.

What’s most exciting is seeing a data-led approach to this work. We all arrive with the baggage of preconception, so to see the evidence confound some of those preconceptions, and to be able to work collaboratively across Jersey to find bespoke – rather than off-the-shelf – solutions, positions the island well to grow its own digitally-skilled workforce, at a time when doing so has never been more important than ever before.

Authors:

Dom Murphy, Founder Geek Talent / Amplifi

David Roworth, Senior Adviser, Digital Innovation, Skills Jersey

James Linder, Strategy Manager at Digital Jersey

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