The Last Word – Helen Tong

January 5, 2022

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times, Helen Tong, project lead of the new Dynamo North East/North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) Digital Talent Engine, talks about the work being done to support future talent in the region’s digital sector, encouraging young people to consider it as a viable career path, and why businesses need to work together to fuel innovation and sector growth.

Tell us a little about your new post. What does it entail, why has it been created, and what are your main aims and objectives?

My role is to lead the Digital Talent Engine project for Dynamo North East and the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA). The project will focus on the development of a talent pipeline to support the sustainable growth of the region’s digital sector. We want to inspire and encourage people to get into the sector – particularly in starting positions. We know there are many individuals outside the industry who do not understand the vast amount of opportunities that are available.

So, with that in mind, this project proposes to:

• Create flagship digital assets and a platform for candidates to find opportunities in the region

• Deliver outreach campaigns to reach target audiences, including underrepresented or lowskilled groups, and ensure the digital platform has a large, inclusive and highly relevant audience

• Create a high-profile regional hiring portal for digital roles

• Work with employers and training/educational organisations to develop new talent pipeline programmes

• Nurture early career and new-to-digital talent by creating an active community and mentorship network

To achieve these objectives, we will help employers create and develop jobs, help candidates build skills and work with academic and training organisations to develop the skills needed – and match candidates with jobs.

The Digital Talent Engine is part of NTCA’s £12 million Digital Growth and Innovation Programme, which has been founded to further expand the region’s tech and digital sector. What does it say about the power of collaboration and the importance of coming together for the area’s benefit?

It’s vital for a healthy digital ecosystem to have a co-ordinated set of initiatives running that fuel innovation, new business creation and business scale-up support, and work to ensure there’s an active focus on workforce development for different types of businesses. By co-ordinating our efforts, we can simplify the landscape for the businesses involved, as their time is precious and it’s often navigating the options available that puts people off accessing this type of support. NTCA has played a valuable convening role, bringing organisations together to focus on how we tackle challenges collaboratively.

The North East is already renowned nationally for having a strong tech and digital sector. How much will the Digital Talent Engine further bolster that and, crucially, how will it help maintain the momentum already built up to ensure the region remains a UK hotspot for new skills and innovation?

The region’s digital sector is rightly admired and respected nationally, but without a pipeline of talent, further growth will be stunted; that’s how important this project is.

We know we have untapped talent in the region – we need to nurture that talent into meaningful digital roles that will fill the thousands of vacancies at the outstanding digital companies based in the region.

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