How the demand and supply for skills initiatives is changing

October 2, 2020

The way we work, recruit and seek jobs has changed forever. As skills providers, we must adjust to these changes in demand, says Jill McKinney, head of skills at Sunderland Software City

A single job vacancy now receives more than 250 applications on average: a direct result of COVID-19. Many are finding themselves out of work in an aggressive job market and, more than ever, businesses are requiring digital to be part of the applicant’s skillset. Since June 2020 alone, we’ve seen an increase in digital vacancies by 36 per cent.

Skills initiatives must respond to this new demand for digital skills. While there are already a number of funded initiatives to support people back into work, there are still gaps that need to be plugged. The Government’s Kickstart Scheme, for example, is designed to support people into employment, but is only available to young people aged 16 to 24.

The Kickstart Scheme is also only available to businesses that have 30 or more opportunities, which seems unfair to the significant number of SME businesses who may only have a need for one apprentice within their business. That’s particularly interesting when we consider that the majority of companies in the North East are micro to small enterprises.

So, what is happening on-the-ground in the North East?

We have spoken to two local organisations to learn more about the great work they are doing to help plug the digital skills gap.

Professor Alastair Irons, academic dean for Faculty of Technology, University of Sunderland, says: “The universities and other training providers are working together to address the challenges created by COVID-19.

“It has become apparent as we deal with COVID-19 that there is a huge demand for digital skills in the region. In order to retrain and reskill people there is an opportunity to help develop these digital skills.

“The North East universities are involved with the Institute of Coding and, through the IoC, are providing training and courses to those seeking to reskill. In addition, the universities are offering discounts on courses for those who have been impacted by redundancy.”

Scott Urwin, regional employment engagement manager at Baltic Apprenticeships, adds: “At Baltic, our focus throughout the pandemic has been around how we can best support our employers and keep opportunities open for young people across the North East. We aim to create 250 jobs for people in the region this year, and with new Government incentives for apprentice employers, we’re on our way to achieving this.

“This funding could be absolutely transformational for the North East tech sector. Alongside a much-needed cash boost for businesses – up to £3000 – the scheme encourages employers to grow their own talent and invest in the digital skills they’ll need for the future.”

At Sunderland Software City, we’ve refined our own Go Reboot skills programme, which helps individuals understand how their skills can be used in a digital economy, and how they can develop new digital skills aligned with local growth strategies.

As a region, it is crucial that we collaborate to address the digital skills gap, working closely with training providers, education providers and industry to make sure that job seekers will have the best possible chance of securing work.

Sunderland Software City
To learn more about SSC’s digital skills and training initiatives, contact Jill McKinney, head of skills, at

– Advertising feature –

Scroll to next article
Go to

Invest in the next generation