Prominent digital, education and public sector organisations across Leeds have joined forces with social enterprise Ahead Partnership to launch an initiative to help address skills gaps and break down long-standing barriers around digital sector careers. With almost 35,000 people employed in digital in Leeds[1] alone but many businesses still reporting difficulty recruiting candidates with the right skills, the collaborative initiative takes action to develop and diversify the city’s future pipeline of digital talent.

The launch event for Growing Talent Digital Leeds will take place on 30 September at BJSS’ Leeds city centre headquarters as part of Leeds Digital Festival, giving employers and business volunteers from all sectors an opportunity to find out how they can get involved and support the initiative. Throughout the next year, Infinity Works; Netcompany; BJSS; AND Digital; Leeds Trinity University; Leeds City College; and Leeds City Council will sponsor a range of exciting careers and skills activities delivered by Ahead Partnership, including masterclasses, careers panels, festivals and events designed to help young people understand the importance of digital skills for future roles.

The employer-led programme is aimed at young people aged 11-18 years old and will prioritise under-represented groups and areas in the city, helping to break down barriers of perception, prejudice and unconscious bias around the digital sector and encourage greater diversity and inclusion within the future workforce.

With up to 87% of advertised jobs in the UK requiring digital skills[2], the initiative will also highlight the integral role that digital plays in many of today’s careers and industries, involving digital partners with expertise in fields from engineering to IT consultancy and video games development.

Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive at Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise that works with businesses of different sizes and sectors to design and deliver social value projects that create positive change within society, said:

“The importance of digital in today’s working world is only increasing, and so we’ve been delivering a number of initiatives throughout recent years to support the future success of the industry. Now, with the pandemic only emphasising the need for skilled digital talent, Growing Talent Digital Leeds is a really timely programme that will engage a wide range of young people with the sector for the benefit of their future careers.

“Leeds has a thriving business community, and digital plays a significant role in this – from the tech companies and start-ups who operate from the city centre to the skilled digital workers that play a pivotal role in organisations in other industries. It’s fantastic to see so many of these organisations across the city signing up as partners and pledging their support to the initiative. We can’t wait to get started.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education said:

“As the digital sector continues to grow it is more important than ever that we ensure our young people are equipped with the skills that will not only deliver what employers need but also give those young people the start in a sector that will continue to develop.  Covid has shown us how much businesses from all areas rely on digital skills and we need to ensure that skills gaps are addressed.

“Growing Talent Digital Leeds will provide the springboard needed to break down barriers and showcase the digital sector as accessible to all, I’m really excited to be working alongside Ahead Partnership and other organisations to make this a success over the next year.”

Clement Pickering, Director of Academy at Infinity Works, also commented:

“As a business with deep roots in the city, when we heard about the opportunity to support Growing Talent Digital Leeds, we knew it was an initiative we wanted to get involved with. We’re passionate about the potential of Leeds’ digital sector and supporting the local tech community, but to secure its success we must take action to raise awareness of the many rewarding career opportunities available among as many people as possible now.

“By joining forces with great organisations across the city, we have the opportunity to make a real difference, engaging a wide range of young people and showcasing the many exciting career pathways in digital. We’re looking forward to working with Ahead Partnership to deliver on this ambition.”

The programme will comprise a flexible blend of activities, taking place in-person across the city and in schools and colleges, or via tried-and-tested virtual methods.

Employers of all sizes and sectors interested in helping to make a positive change for the future of Leeds’ digital community can visit Ahead Partnership’s website for more information on how to get involved and sign up to the launch event on 30 September.

[1] www.technation.io/insights/report-2018/leeds

[2] www.burning-glass.com/research-project/uk-demand-digital-skills/

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.