What do you think are some of the biggest barriers to getting a job or participating in civic society today?
A lot of things can stand in the way of you being able to take part in day-to-day life. Yet the skills to use digital technology is one of the biggest barriers many people face today.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, according to the Office of National Statistics, 13% of residents have never used the internet. To help people get online and to improve digital skills, a Local Digital Skills Partnership has launched.
The partnership launch took place last Thursday at the Eden Project. Bluefruit Software was there along with with representatives across public, private and charity sector organisations.
The new partnership isn’t all about improving access to the internet and the skills needed to do things like voter registration, online banking or accessing email.
Training and hiring for growth
The Local Digital Skills Partnership is about improving digital access (skills and jobs) across all ability levels. Each ability level has different needs and outcomes.
At one end we have that 13 % of residents who have never used the internet. In the middle, we have people needing digital skills to continue working. And at the other end, we have people who are coders or are looking for STEM jobs that local businesses are keen to recruit for.
There are barriers that hold people back from pursuing tech careers or studying for them in the first place.
Faith la Grange of Microsoft UK spoke at the event. She pointed out that, “there are lots of different opportunities in the technology sector,” but that there is this perception that it is all coding and that people don’t know that there are apprenticeships available.
In Cornwall, only 10% of those studying Computer Science at GCSE level are female. Last week, new data showed that between 2017 to 2018 the number of IT and computing related qualifications taken by Year 11 students fell by 45% (PDF).
A panel discussion at the event suggested there is a need to breakdown stereotypes around tech careers, and having teachers who understand computing and IT. Businesses also need to show women, for instance, that having a tech career doesn’t have to get in the way of having a family.
On a bigger scale, failing to have tech companies with real diversity can have dangerous repercussions for technology development. So even at a local level, we all need to do something about diversity in tech.
Bringing it all together
Many different groups across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are already involved in projects to improve digital access and increase recruitment into the tech sector. Like Software Cornwall’s Mission to Mars events, or conferences like Agile on the Beach, or groups like the Digital Champions Network. But the partnership takes things a step further.
The partnership has a clear goal about enabling collaboration across the county to help deal with digital inclusion and participation.
But one of the biggest tasks the partnership faces is making sure that the actions taken are what people need. As Paul Massey, Bluefruit’s founding director, pointed out during the panel discussion:
“I think we need to listen more. To listen to individuals and to our communities about what their challenges and barriers are.”
Looking for a tech career in Cornwall?
Bluefruit Software is growing, and we have a number of job vacancies available. Check out our job pages for more information.
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