Digital skills can help firms capitalise on tech boom

April 3, 2018

Chris Toon, deputy principal of Gateshead College, explains how strong links between education and industry are boosting digital skills in the region

The North East is home to some of the country’s most ambitious, forward-thinking technology companies, which is hugely aspirational for people looking to pursue a career in the region.

Take Zerolight, which creates 3D visual solutions for some of the world’s top automotive brands, or award-winning digital development agency Enigma Interactive, named as one of the top UK tech agencies in The Drum magazine’s Digital Census.

Creative firm Atomhawk is another rising star in the industry, helping movie studios, game developers and product designers bring their ideas to life. And innovative app developer Nutshell Software is the brains behind an innovative drag and drop app building platform that allows firms to create and customise their own app.

Gateshead College works with all of these companies, making sure that our programmes are giving people the skills needed by these businesses as they grow and develop.

In such a fast-moving sector, where new ideas and technology are continually emerging, this is critical if they are to capitalise on the opportunities that will inevitably arise.

Working with companies at the cutting edge of modern tech keeps our curriculum and student experience relevant and inspiring. Emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are very much part of the mix, as is working on employer-led projects.

Some of our students will work with Atomhawk over the coming months, taking eye-catching artwork produced by the company and exploring ways of transforming it into VR or AR.

Others will display their video games and interactive animations at the upcoming Great Exhibition of the North, in partnership with Proto – a huge opportunity to showcase the finest North East talent on the world stage.

This approach gives students a chance to acquire a broader set of digital skills that will help them in their career. And these forward-thinking businesses recognise that working in partnership with us, investing their very precious time, will allow them to shape the talent they need to drive their business forward in the future – and there’ll be plenty of scope for this to happen, with a wide range of sectors now exploring the potential of tech and how it could help their business.

Hotels and guest houses, for example, can show new customers 360-degree walkthrough videos of their room before they set foot in the place. The potential is enormous – and that’s why education providers must continue to work with tech companies, and their customers, to make sure they have the skills to capitalise on it.

To that end, we’re working with Atomhawk, Zerolight, Nutshell, Enigma and others to ensure our students see how these technologies operate in a working environment before they take their first steps onto the career ladder.

They’re mentored by experienced industry professionals and work on live client briefs so they can apply their skills and knowledge to real-world scenarios.

Opportunities like this are essential to further their development and ensure firms have the skills they need to keep ahead of the game. Skills are, and should remain, a priority for the North East business community, and we should all play our part in helping firms exploit the power of tech.

Gateshead College