The Fascinating World of the Digital Economy

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This week has been tough, firstly after last weeks holiday it does take some time to get to the bottom of your in tray and thats as other projects come through the door thick and fast. I was lucky enough to cover a conference this week at Manchester Town Hall that placed new digital companies in the same location as teachers and lecturers from various schools around Manchester.

Now many of you will think that this type of activity happens on a regular basis but I can tell you it doesn’t happen enough. It was an eye opener on many levels and even though I consider myself to be up to date with the latest technological innovations and practices even I was amazed at how fast the world of digital business is changing.

It is changing so fast that these cutting edge companies don’t have time to worry about training and formal qualification, they need people now and they will employ anyone who will deliver what they need, qualifications or not.

This came as a shock to some of the Teachers listening to these people who explained how the industry they worked. The fact that they often survive on a project by project model and that forward planning was all about covering costs and making a profit whilst ensuring that the quality of work was fantastic.

Most College Principals will tell you that the most challenging activity they face is trying to predict what skills people will need in the next five years and design a curriculum that is both relevant and appealing to potential students and employers. The biggest difficulty arises from the fact that these companies can’t even predict what the technology will look like next month let alone next year.

When employers are asked what qualities do you want students to have when they leave college or university? The answer of course is subject knowledge and work experience in the sector they are going to work in. In other words someone who can walk through the door and hit the ground running with minimum of supervision.

Most employers recognise that this is a panacea, an unrealistic expectation, so they then have a fall back position which is, we need people who can communicate, be computer literate and have a strong work ethic. The expectation is that they can train them in almost every other aspect of the business they will be operating in.

Now I am old enough to have been given that type of education, I was an apprentice for British Gas, who sent me to various colleges to gain the theoretical knowledge I needed but then surrounded me with mentors who had years of experience in all kinds of disciplines who then passed on all sorts of experience which has served me well during the past 30 odd years.

I am glad I attended this conference, it was an eye opener and at least these two groups of people who have the opportunity to shaping our economy more than any other collective group of people are at least starting the discussion around how do we fashion the workforce of the future.

One thing is for sure it will not look like any workforce of today!

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