Digital skills for the next gen

Andrew Harrison from Oldham College, talks about the curriculum responding to the demands of the digital economy

Here at Oldham College we rely extensively on employer feedback and labour market intelligence to determine skills deficits and employment opportunities within the region, and this informs our curriculum planning process. This then enables us to develop new programmes and pathways that will provide students with real job opportunities. 

The digital and creative industries are vital growth sectors in Greater Manchester, and are expected to generate over 23,000 jobs in the next decade. With Britain facing a growing shortage of digital skills, vocational education needs to focus on students learning what they need to progress in the growing digital economy.Whether that’s into employment or onto higher education, learners need to be able to tackle the digital requirements in today’s world of work. 

So, when the opportunity arose for us to apply to become the UK’s first Digital and Creative Career College (DCCC) we went for it 100%. Our aim is to develop the next generation of skilled young people who can make anything possible through software, design, technology and creativity.

Dedicated to innovation and digital technology, with a high tech Fab Lab offering digital printing to fast track innovation and development, the DCCC brings together the creative and technical skills the digital economy demands. Opening this September, it will bring a different approach to 14-19 education and training in this sector. The close involvement of employers ensures that the curriculum is relevant to the labour market and students will acquire the specialist skills and knowledge they need to secure employment or set up their own business.

In addition, we have strong support from local industry. Numerous employers are involved in designing the curriculum and will very much be part of the delivery, offering relevant work experience, placements and mentoring to students. And our teaching staff will also benefit from opportunities with our partners. The quality of the teaching in the DCCC is of paramount importance, and employers have an essential role to play in keeping our staff up-to-date with industry best practice. Our digital and creative teaching staff are currently updating their skills by going back into the workplace to learn from employers and understand the key skills required in the real world today. 

Not only do Career College teachers need to know their subjects, but they also need to appreciate how modern offices and studios function, get to grips with current technologies and understand the everyday commercial, and client, requirements of running a business. The teachers can then pass this knowledge on to the students through the context of their classes and the way they set assignments.

But it’s not enough simply to respond to skills demands with new facilities in line with growth sectors in the economy. We also need to encourage members of our communities to want to work in the digital industries. This means addressing stereotypical perceptions around careers in technology and the Young Digital TaskForce is working hard to do this. Drawn from across the UK, the members provide a young person’s perspective on the most effective way to change perceptions, share learning and make a difference to the skills gap. Two of our IT students are on the steering group which collaborates to helpyoung people, their parents and teachers better understand the opportunities and skills needed in contemporary industries. Initiated by Ed Miliband to help shape the UK’s digital future, the TaskForce is focusing on influencing all parties to take a new approach to careers information for young people across the UK. 

A combination of these types of initiatives, the outstanding facilities we are able to provide, and the innovations in delivery here at Oldham College will help to ensure that young people have the relevant vocational educational skills required for the 21st Century.”

Oldham College is committed to providing employment, training and educational opportunities for its communities and aims to help every student reach their full potential. The College offers a learning environment with industry standard facilities and has close links with many local, regional and national employers. These relationships enrich and broaden the courses the College offers as well as preparing students for progression into employment and higher education.