Recent skills conversations, including our North East Digital Skills Audit and local skills webinars, have reiterated the need for a richer tech talent pipeline in the region. In this article, we focus on how - by putting collaboration at the forefront - we can collectively work to address this gap.
In a nutshell: the problem
The majority of North East STEM employers struggle to fill technical vacancies. There are many reasons for this, linking both to supply and demand. One of these reasons includes a lack of awareness among prospective job candidates of career opportunities that are available to them.
In addition, young people are often unaware of the skills required to successfully secure a job in a STEM industry. Research carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in 2015 found that 43% of STEM vacancies are hard to fill, due to a lack of candidates possessing the required job skills. While the research may seem outdated, compared to similar findings in our 2021 skills audit it shows that this has been a long-standing problem.
While there are many great initiatives in the region that focus on helping employers recruit entry-level talent, such as North East Ambition, in this article we focus on improving the candidate ‘supply’ side. This starts with raising awareness among young people of the opportunities available to them on their own doorsteps, and helping them discover the pathways to develop the right skills.
Part of the solution: improving awareness at a young age
Much of this raising awareness work has to start early on. In the North East, we are seeing multiple initiatives in operation to connect education with industry. Schools, for example, have pivoted during lockdown to provide virtual opportunities for students to connect with industry via business talks for companies, Q&A sessions, tours, roundtables, activities days, and more!
These initiatives have been, without a doubt, a huge help to raise awareness among career opportunities with local businesses.
We as organisations can support these efforts too. At SSC, we are working closely with schools, colleges and universities to form links between education and industry. Important to us to develop this skills pipeline is ensuring that students are aware of:
- What careers are on offer, near to them
- What skills are needed by industry
- How they can develop these necessary skills and qualities to become an excellent member of their future company workforce
To do this, we run skills outreach programmes in which we utilise our knowledge of the local industry landscape and share this within schools. This can be through STEM presentations delivered by our staff or by collaborating with industry directly, for example through employer talks.
This collaboration has to be at the heart of what we do. Just like we work with schools to engage young people, we work closely with businesses who are incredibly passionate about ensuring young people know about the STEM opportunities available to them after their education.
An example of such a collaboration is our work with county Durham-based Dyer Engineering. The company created and provided industry insights videos for schools to assist career activities. In the videos, Dyer employees discuss their career pathways – talking about what they did at school, what subjects they carried on, what educational routes they took, and what skills they now utilise to excel in their roles. The feedback from both teachers and students on these videos has been great.
Watch the video with Dyer Engineering here.
We are still looking for organisations to get involved with skills initiatives. If you’d like to connect with young people in education, raise awareness of your company, and help ensure people coming into work are equipped with the necessary skills - then reach out to a local school or drop us a line to see how we can collaborate.
If you want to get involved but aren’t sure where to start, we’d love for you to get in touch too! You can contact our skills team at: Debbie.berry@Sunderlandsoftwarecity.com.