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South East Local Enterprise Partnership officially launches Digital Skills Partnership pilot

A major new initiative designed to help plug the digital skills gap has been officially launched.

The government-backed Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) brings together businesses, with education, public sector organisations and the charitable sector to ensure the need for these vital skills is met across the south east.

Coordinated by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), which has been chosen to pilot the DSP by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS), it will act as a link between the government and corporate partners including Google, IBM and local digital SMEs to help support residents and businesses across the area.

SELEP's Christian Brodie (12463826)
SELEP's Christian Brodie (12463826)

Key areas the partnership will focus on include virtual reality and online learning, to enable education in areas which experience barriers to technology and employment, such as rural locations and prisons.

The new DSP was launched at an event held at the historic St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, and included an introduction by Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, and a keynote address by Michaela Neild, external affairs manager of Google UK.

The minister said: “We are working hard to build a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. Through the newly formed South East Local Digital Skills Partnership we will empower regional businesses, educators, charities and public sector to come together to boost skills and the local economy.”

Google UK's Michaela Neild (12463831)
Google UK's Michaela Neild (12463831)

Opening the event, Christian Brodie, chair of SELEP, said: “Our skills strategy sets out our ambitions to be involved in the Digital Skills Partnership work. We’re thrilled therefore to be delivering against this as a pilot area.

“SELEP recognises the importance of working collaboratively with government to tackle the digital skills challenges in the region. Not only does DCMS provide grant funding to appoint a local DSP regional coordinator, they also fast track introductions and discussions with national industry partners wishing to support, along with other policy areas within DCMS and other government departments that may have pockets of funding targeting digital skills provision.

“The prospect of joining up all of the great digital skills work already happening with national support, both from corporate organisations and across government, is exciting and has the potential to create innovative programmes that will provide the greatest impact.”

We are working hard to build a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone

SELEP’s skills strategy has identified a growing need for digital skills, with business growth being held back, vacancy numbers remaining high and many companies struggling to recruit and retain digitally-focused staff.

In the last calendar year it was reported that there were more than 35,000 digital vacancies, including web and software developers, programmers and coders across the SELEP area which covers Kent, Essex, East Sussex, Medway, Southend and Thurrock.

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