The tech and digital sector in the North East has grown rapidly, with figures from Tech City showing that over 26,000 people are in digital employment. It’s estimated to be worth £1.1bn to the regional economy by 2020 and so high-speed growth is set to continue, as is its importance as a driver of investment and job creation.
However, there’s an increasing skills shortage and from ambitious start-ups to global companies, businesses in the industry are crying out for more tech talent. Gateshead College is supporting the industry to ensure that skills provision matches the needs of businesses, creating a workforce that has the technical capability and creative flair to encourage further investment and growth.
Developing ever-closer ties with schools and industry, the college works with leading North East networks such as Dynamo as well as virtual reality experts from Vector 76 and Bede Gaming, a software supplier to the online gaming sector.
These partnerships have given dozens of students learning opportunities that have paved the way to a successful career in the IT industry. They are also a catalyst to engage youngsters, helping them to learn about the exciting pathways into coding and software development.
Students are well prepared for employment with opportunities to complete work placements and apprenticeships at high-profile companies such as Ignifi, a Gateshead-based specialist creative communication agency.
Dave Watson, managing director at Ignifi, says: “During their week with us, students see the technical skills needed and put them into practice on live client projects. Just as importantly, they experience the communication, project management attributes and attitude that working in this industry requires.
“It’s refreshing to see young students with good core capabilities and interaction skills. They come to us demonstrating an impressive ‘ready-for-work’ attitude nurtured by the college that we can build on rather than train from scratch.”
Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, comments: “We pride ourselves on being highly responsive to the needs of North East businesses and providing them with the right training and further education opportunities to enable effective staff development that is bespoke to each business.
“It’s important that we give students skills for work and our collaborations with industry are enabling them to do this. I’m proud of their achievements and excited about their potential.”
A shining example of this responsiveness is the college’s move into skills provision for virtual reality, incorporating learning about computer simulated reality techniques into existing games design programmes. Students on these courses were part of the first ever UK VR developer day, held in Gateshead in March 2016. Sponsored by ARM, a global software and hardware development company, the event provided networking opportunities with technical experts and the chance to exhibit their recent work.
Roberto Lopez Mendez, software graphics engineer from ARM, comments: “I am very happy to see students getting into VR development. What they have produced in such a short time is a wonderful piece of work. A great job by the students and by the teachers at Gateshead College.”
The real work environment experience gained by studying at Gateshead College has led 28-year-old Phil Duggan (pictured) to become the proud owner of a successful digital marketing company, Noiseworks.
Phil was studying for a Higher National Diploma in computing and systems development when his interest in web design began. He says: “Business is going really well. My client base is growing steadily and we’ve just landed our first client from outside of the region. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Gateshead College. I chose to study there as I’d heard excellent things about their computing and IT department and I can honestly say it was the best decision I could have made.”