The digital skills gap: why it’s time for agencies to get into education

By Gavin Sherratt | managing director

May 10, 2016 | 5 min read

We are currently seeing a talent gap in the digital and tech sector - and as more organisations turn to the web, the demand is only going to grow. The skills gap isn’t a new one for our sector, but maybe it’s time for the practising professionals to do something about it.

Gavin Sherratt of Studio Mashbo.
Gavin Sherratt is managing director of Studio Mashbo.

Gavin Sherratt of Studio Mashbo.

Gavin Sherratt is managing director of Studio Mashbo.

We have a university system which is slow to react to the fast pace of an ever-changing industry, and one of the questions that needs to be asked is to be a great technician do you really need a degree to progress?

One of my co-founders at Mashbo, Liam Potter, left the education system after a year at college. Instead of the classroom he had a hunger to be self-schooled. During my time at university I went on placement in my final year to gain industry knowledge and experience which allowed me to walk into my first job. But what we’re now seeing is a group of young people with degrees who are industry ready.

With this in mind it’s time for the educational institutions to allow the digital and tech industry into the classrooms and lecture theatres. The main reason is to inspire: we understand that you need to follow the academic progress to gain the degree accreditation but for a graduate to hit the ground running in the workshop there needs to be some encouragement for proactive learning, with some indications of what is needed from them.

As well as universities we as an industry should be looking to inspire young minds towards potential future careers. With the rising costs of tuition fees lots of young people might see this as barrier to a career in creative, digital and tech.

But I would encourage local authorities to engage in a relationship with our sector to proactively get coders, designers and business owners to share their passion for work in school and spark the imaginations of the next generation to get careers in our world. This will also allow us to nurture this talent and find the new ‘Liams’ who don’t need to attend university.

As part of our growth at Mashbo we took on our first apprentice, Holly, on last year, and in doing so we found a diamond who has become an important part of our team and culture. We have to invest time with her but we are already seeing the benefits of getting an apprentice who could afford to follow the university path. And what’s great is Holly is already involved in public speaking about her learning process and client work she is involved in.

My call to our industry is this: we have to invest in young people to give them the inspiration and insight into our industry and to encourage proactive learning. But we need to invest the time in getting ourselves into classes and lecture theatres. We should be involved with things like the BIMA School Days and organised open studio sessions where young people can see the world that we work first hand.

We have started this out-reach by taking a Creative Kitchen event to Liverpool John Moores University on May 18th where students will get to meet people from our industry and get a taste of the world away from the classroom. Supporting the short term need, and inspiring young people at the same time, will help us to support the future needs of our industry and the business world as whole.

Gavin Sherratt is managing director of Studio Mashbo.

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