A unique initiative In Liverpool to tackle the digital skills gap could be used anywhere in the UK.
Robyn Dooley was 17 when she dropped out of college and founded the Innovators Hub, which is a tech academy aimed at teaching younger people digital skills.
The idea for the hub came when she grew frustrated while searching for opportunities in the city’s creative and digital sectors.
She launched a 10-week skills programme called Catalyst, which brought together 50 young people aged between 18-30 and around 40 companies willing to provide workshops, talks and studio tours.
She told the 70-strong audience at Capital & Centric’s Tempest Building: “By building a community that is totally inclusive, accessible and set out to inspire, we want to make sure we harness and nurture the talent that we have in the city, right on our doorstep.
Chelsea Slater, co-founder of Liverpool Girl Geeks, James Chapman, Red Ninja Studio, Hayden Evans, Rippleffect, and Gavin Sherratt, of Studio Mashbo
“People say that the skills aren’t here in the city but I’d argue that it just takes some moulding and encouragement for people to take the initial step forward.”
Through her work Dooley realised there was a gap between education and businesses that needs to be addressed in order for the skills gap to be bridged.
“Education wasn’t designed to link us to local businesses or help us to understand the opportunities in our area,” she says.
“The skills people were leaving education with were not the skills that are needed to get a job. There was no go-to place to help people make that transition into the sector.”
Paul Corcoran, of Agent Marketing, Andy Kent, of Angel Solutions, Robyn Dooley, Innovators Hub founder and Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric
Developer Tim Heatley is the co-founder of Capital & Centric and provided Dooley with the Tempest Building for free to house the Catalyst programme. He believes the Innovators Hub model could be equally effective in other cities around the UK.
Hayden Evans, creative director of digital agency Rippleffect says through initiatives like Innovators Hub the skills gap is starting to be bridged in the city.
“I do think Liverpool is catching up and with the help of initiatives such as Innovators Hub and Liverpool Girl Geeks agencies are starting to connect with local upcoming talent,” he says.
Evans believes that in order for this success to continue the attitude of employers also needs to change.
“It’s all too easy to create a job advert and then at the end mention you are looking for one or two years’ experience,” he says.
“If you have an experienced existing team why not look to see what someone fresh to industry can bring? There is no need for the old fashioned ‘throw them in at the deep end’ mentality.”
James Chapman, COO at design-led technology studio Red Ninja Studios, says collaboration between businesses must happen to solve the problem.
“It is crucial that we all – big and small companies alike – come together to try and find alternative solutions to the challenge,” he says.
“The skills gap is not going to be solved by academia, government or companies on their own. We all need to come together and collaborate to lead the way.”
One group that is already doing this is Liverpool Girl Geeks. Chelsea Slater is the organisation’s co-founder and runs events, workshops and courses designed to inspire women and girls into tech.
“We have a membership scheme and part of that is to help businesses to recruit,” she says.
“We have a jobs board and Robyn and I create a digital jobs monthly newsletter to try and promote the sector and help people into the roles.”
Other panellists at the event were Andy Kent, CEO of Angel Solutions; Gavin Sherratt, managing director of Mashbo; and Paul Corcoran, managing director of Agent Marketing.