A group of creative and digital companies from Liverpool have joined forces to tackle the skills gap head-on.

Catalyst is a 10-week skills programme aimed at 18-30-year-olds, who are hoping to get their foot in the door of the digital industry or for those already in work seeking to brush up on their skills.

Around 40 companies have signed up to the programme with most holding workshops, talks and providing studio tours.

The initiative is the brainchild of entrepreneur Robyn Dooley, who founded the Innovators Hub after leaving her college course in fashion at the age of 17.

She said: “I didn’t feel the course was relevant to what I wanted to do. I felt it restricted my creativity so I left.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I was passionate about working with young people.”

LISTEN TO THE FULL AUDIO INTERVIEW HERE

Innovators Hub

Robyn did some research and found there was a pool of untapped young people in Liverpool similar to her who wanted to work in the digital creative sector but lacked the required skills.

“They were slipping through the cracks because either they weren’t qualified or because they didn’t know what help was available,” she said. “That’s where the idea for the Innovators Hub came from.”

NOMINATE: Search is on to find UK's 150 best tech start-ups

Her big break came in 2015 when she met Andy Kent, CEO of Angel Solutions, an award-winning Liverpool-based software development company.

Andy Kent

“Angel Solutions is a £2.5m turnover business with 35 staff,” he said. “We’re fast growing but recruiting staff is a constant battle and recruiting companies cost a lot of money.

“When I met Robyn I realised that there was a solution to an industry problem. We shared the same philosophy.”

After gathering support from the city’s digital creative industry she launched a free 10-week Catalyst programme to run every Tuesday from January-March, 2017 for an initial intake of 50 students.

Developer Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric, provided space free of charge at their Tempest office in Tithebarn Street.

Robyn said: “I’ve been stunned by the generosity of the business community in Liverpool. Success for me will be the students going out and finding their own opportunities.

"Sometimes you take a step back and think ‘wow’. We are changing people’s lives and we see it every single week.”

The current intake of students graduate on March 27 and there’s already plans to make it a rolling programme.

Kent said: “I believe in this and it’s gathering momentum. The only way this programme works is if the sector owns it.”

Catalyst is open to anyone in the Liverpool area wishing to progress in the digital industry, including graduates, college leavers and people already working in the digital sector who want to improve their skills.

Below: Andy Kent discusses Big Data at a BusinessCloud conference last summer