Phil Smith is Co-Chair of the Digital Skills Partnership Board. He is the former CEO and Chair of Cisco UK and Ireland, and the Chair of the Tech Partnership. Here he talks about the aims of the Digital Skills Partnership and takes a look ahead at how they will be achieved.
Last November I was delighted to co-chair the first meeting of the Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) Board with Matt Hancock, then the Minister of State for Digital and now the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. I’m pleased to say that Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries will now take over this role from Matt.
Matt’s blog post set out some of the work that’s been done so far and the challenges ahead. We said we would focus on strong collaboration between the public, private and third sector to tackle the digital skills gap. We want to do that in a coordinated and coherent way, so the sum is greater than the parts and everyone has better access to the training they need. Following on from that, I’d like to share some detail on the priorities for the DSP, ways of working and how you can get involved.
We are at a pivotal point. Technological developments are transforming the way we live and work. Our ability to continue on a path of innovation will be determined by our commitment as a nation to ensuring that everyone has the skills they need to support, and benefit from, a thriving digital economy.
The message in the government’s Digital Strategy is clear: there is some really good work going on to increase the UK’s digital capability, but taking a more collaborative, coordinated and targeted approach to digital skills is absolutely necessary. I was hugely encouraged by the commitment of my fellow DSP Board members to meet that challenge and the agreement that we need to act now to keep up with the rate of change.
We will work together with partners who have experience in delivering successful digital skills provision to a diverse range of people and organisations. And we will work across all levels of capability: from the basic digital skills that support inclusion, to the digital skills we increasingly need for work, through to the advanced digital skills required for specialist roles.
Given the size of the challenge, it makes sense to break the work into smaller, connected chunks. The DSP Board has agreed to prioritise four initial specific work streams and set up Delivery Groups for each:
We will work together to improve the coherence of what can be seen as a fragmented landscape of digital skills provision.
This Delivery Group will be co-chaired by Liz Williams, Director at Tech Literacy and Education at BT, and Eleanor Bradley, Chief Operating Officer of Nominet.
Local Digital Skills Partnerships (LDSPs)
We will support the establishment of local partnerships and help them to make better use of data to identify digital skills needs, meet those needs in a targeted way and share best practice.
This Delivery Group will be co-chaired by Helen Milner, CEO of the Good Things Foundation, and MB Christie, Chief Operating Officer at Tech Nation.
We will continue to collaborate with a range of partners to motivate smaller businesses and charities to become more digitally mature and to increase their digital capability.
This Delivery Group will be chaired by Nick Williams, Managing Director for Consumer Digital at Lloyds Banking Group.
Computing in Schools
We will support teachers to gain the knowledge and skills to teach the new computing curriculum effectively.
Co-chairs for this Delivery Group will be confirmed very soon.
The co-chairs will report to the DSP Board on progress, and these Delivery Groups will be the crucial bodies in achieving our goals.
Matt talked in his blog post about the great news that more than 2 million of the 4 million digital skills training opportunities pledged by DSP Partners have been delivered in just 8 months. My own organisation, Cisco, recently announced that it would provide another 250,000 free places on our Networking Academy in the UK, and I know we’ll be seeing further commitments from other partners too.
Building a skilled and capable workforce is potentially one of the biggest challenges industry and government have to address over the next few years. I am confident that the DSP can make a big difference and I look forward to the increasing support of industry to drive a real impact for the UK.
The DSP Delivery Groups will continue to invite partners to contribute their expertise, experience and resources and help them to ensure that pledges are directed to the places they are needed. If you are interested in joining one of the Delivery Groups, or would like to support the work of the DSP in other ways, please complete this short form.
We’ll be sharing our progress here. The co-chairs who are leading on the National Coherence Delivery Group have published a blog post alongside this one. Watch this space for more in the coming weeks.