Local Digital Skills Partnerships (Local DSPs) bring together businesses, charities, and public sector organisations to tackle local digital skills challenges. Supported by the DSP, these partnerships are working to build thriving and inclusive local economies. This is the first in a series of posts from the local leads, sharing their experiences of developing a Local DSP.
Lisa Moizer is the Strategic Coordinator for Lancashire Enterprise Partnership's Skills and Employment Hub.
The Digital Strategy, published in March 2017, talked about increasing collaboration between public-, private-, and charity-sector organisations to help address local digital skills needs in more targeted and innovative ways. This was music to our ears in Lancashire, and so I began a conversation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) later that year.
We were keen to find out more about the aims of the national Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) and to understand how Lancashire could work with DCMS through a Local DSP model, as at face value it appeared that our approach to digital skills and ambitions were alike.
Fast forward to 18 April and I'm standing in the impressive foyer of EKM, one of our key digital businesses in Lancashire, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day; we are about to welcome a fantastic host of digital stakeholders to our Lancashire Digital Skills Summit, and to launch Lancashire’s Local DSP – the first in the country.
Our Beginnings and Ambitions
The story for Lancashire began in the summer of 2015, when we gathered an evidence base that would underpin the creation of the Lancashire Skills and Employment Strategic Framework. The Framework is a shared document, developed in consultation with stakeholders, whose purpose is to facilitate a responsive skills and employment system. (Find out more about it here.)
The Framework encompasses a focus on the digital sector and digital skills, as this is a priority for the Lancashire economy: not only is the sector Lancashire's fastest growing (and projected to continue growing significantly), but we also recognise that digital skills underpin the potential and wellbeing of people and businesses in Lancashire across all sectors.
Our ambitions in Lancashire across essential, intermediate and expert digital skills are as follows:
- Essential: Lancashire residents have essential online skills and the confidence to access digital technology to live and work well;
- Intermediate: Lancashire employees have the right digital skills to enable Lancashire businesses to thrive;
- Expert: Lancashire businesses have access to skilled people to enable them to drive digital innovation and be at the forefront of Industry 4.0.
We have directed investment and resource toward digital skills and employment activities in the county that meet identified needs across these three levels of digital skills. Investment has come from a variety of funding sources, including European investment funds, skills capital, and the Careers Enterprise Company. We have also built a network of public-, private-, and charity-sector organisations, which has enabled us to have an informed approach to address our digital skills needs. It was this network that we called upon to come together to launch our Local DSP alongside DCMS.
Our Successes and the Future
The success of the Summit was down to an excellent collaboration of local and national partners, which reflects exactly what a successful Local DSP needs to be. The three key speakers and 14 panellists were listened to by over 90 delegates, which is a testament to the level of interest and engagement we received. A huge thank you needs to go to our colleagues in DCMS, who were instrumental in facilitating the engagement of corporate partners on the day. (We were pleased to also note that our Twitter hashtag #LancsDigiSummit was trending in the UK top ten during the summit; please check it out to get a feel for the event.)
Feedback from delegates was incredibly positive: everyone was excited about our achievements and the potential of what we can accomplish together going forward. Delegates also said how important it is to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum that had been built. An issue raised several times throughout the day was that Lancashire doesn't ‘blow its own trumpet’ enough, and that we should try to improve communication of our agenda and our achievements within the county – we have to work on doing this nationally as well.
It is now essential that we develop our best practise locally: growing and sustaining projects that have an impact, as well as bringing on board corporate support and national policies in a coherent and collaborative way. This will mean that we are consistently adding value to the local picture and continuously learning. Google, TSB, Lloyds, and Freeformers have already agreed to provide support to digital skills training in Lancashire through the partnership; Google has committed to work with local partners to train 1,000 people and businesses through its Digital Garage programme.
We need to continue to work closely with DCMS to support the development of their 'Playbook'. We also need to ensure that we take up corporate support opportunities and Government initiatives to test new models and ideas, as well as proactively sharing our experiences with areas who wish to set up their own Local DSPs across the country.
Follow us on Twitter @LancashireSkillsHub (and our associated hash tags: #LancsDigiSummit, #InspiringLancashire and #UpskillingLancashire).