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Digital Skills Summit Workshop Roundup 4 - Do Qualifications Really Matter?

If you missed the Digital Skills Summit last week here’s the feedback from Jennifer Wells, the Training and Development Manager at the University of Brighton and what she discussed in her workshop:

Do qualifications matter?

We’ll consider what continuing professional development could and should look like for the sector and the merits of formal and informal learning.

How important is the graduate talent pool?

  • The group agreed that the access to graduate talent in the city is key to their success.
  • Areas for improvement are closer collaboration with local universities e.g. contributing to developing courses, expert talks, setting projects and offering placements.
  • The relevance of degrees is dependent upon the role. Computing and related degrees are seen as almost always necessary for developer and software engineering roles whereas degrees are seen as less relevant to digital marketing as an example.

What are the common themes for in-house/self-taught training? 

  • Across the board, mentoring, shadowing and learning on the job are seen as the, and in some cases the only, appropriate form of staff development.
  • Understanding company culture, project management, time management and client relationships are the most common areas for development.
  • We discussed formalising informal learning and the group saw value in this approach but debated how to do that successfully without inhibiting staff and ensuring a culture of seek and find and learning for oneself.

We considered alternative forms of education and debated the value of apprenticeships.

  • There was some discussion around higher apprenticeships as a route to developing skills for the future. They could lend themselves to tech development but not interactive design, for example.

The group discussed challenges around recruitment.

  • The consensus of the group was that there is an expectation that most applicants will have a degree
  • Some roles (developer, programmer etc.) it is a useful albeit blunt instrument for evaluating and short-listing applications.
  • Vendor qualifications are only relevant to specific roles.
  • The idea about behaviours, attributes and aspiration was discussed
  • There was some criticism of the quality of applications and work could be done to coach and support graduates in writing a CV, covering letters and interview techniques.
  • There was a consensus that skills could be acquired and that potential and passion are key.
  • A member of the group has experienced difficulty in recruiting software developers.

What is CPD and what form can it take? Courses? What could or should the universities being doing?

  • The emphasis is on learning on the job and the role the universities could play in supporting this was unclear
  • Does the cluster even need support as they are adept in doing it for themselves.
  • Universities could learn from the sector as opposed to other way around. However, the group was open to and interested in exploring this further.
  • Formal courses seemed to hold little appeal and were viewed as appropriate in terms of specific technology and/or vendor qualifications.

What are the most common skills gaps and how do you fill them? 

  • Understanding company culture, project management, time management and client relationships and working in teams are the most common areas for development.
  • These gaps are filled primarily through coaching, self-directed learning, learning from more experienced colleagues and simply by doing the job.
  • ‘Scrum teams’ learning in-house works and not courses as the pace of change is so fast.
  • Creating pathways for individuals and the idea of progression was seen as important.
  • Generic key business skills remain at the core.

Thanks to Jen for facilitating the group workshop and for the feedback.

The full round up blog for the Digital Skills Summit is here.

The Digital Skills Summit: Powered by Wired Sussex was supported by The Regional Growth Fund and Sussex Learning Network.


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