Vocational education is the key to helping people access a career in digital and closing the skills gap in Yorkshire

There are huge opportunities within the digital and tech sectors with the demand for skilled workers in these areas growing in the region. There are also clear barriers to accessing these opportunities and without acknowledging these and finding meaningful ways to overcome them, the region’s ability to progress and remain competitive will become stagnant.

It’s well-understood that there are huge opportunities within the tech and digital sectors, especially as the regional demand for skilled workers in these areas is growing. However, a misconception around digital and tech jobs leaves many thinking that it’s not relevant or accessible to them. There are also clear barriers to accessing these opportunities and without acknowledging these and finding meaningful ways to overcome them, the region’s ability to progress and remain competitive will become stagnant. Yet the data shows that pretty much any job, in any sector, requires some level of digital capability and understanding. 

While digital courses can provide deep skills development in a range of areas, including software programming, digital graphics, web design, networking and digital forensics, there are also courses that can cover off the basics – helping people feel more confident to take on new or higher paid job roles.

In years gone by, building a career in digital and IT would have simply involved studying a degree. While this is still a valuable way of gaining your tech credentials, today’s education market offers a range of other options to build up your knowledge, increase your confidence through real-life experience, and score some major CV points. One of these ways is through vocational further education.

According to the Learning and Work Institute, 52 per cent of the population lack the essential digital skills required for the workplace. These include being able to set up professional networking accounts, manage digital records and financial accounts, use appropriate software to analyse data (for example spreadsheets) and manage information securely. This, coupled with the fact that almost 70 percent of jobs in the digital sector are in non-tech careers, like HR, legal, finance and sales, illustrates that we are moving into an age where you can no longer progress in a career without having basic digital skills.

For many, the idea of returning to education isn’t an option due to time constraints and expense, but Leeds City College is one of many colleges that offers evening classes, the ability to study online and the option of committing to studying only one day a week. Community centres are often where these courses are held, so people can learn important skills such as website development, coding and computer programming without having to travel too far.

Leeds City College, a member of Luminate Education Group, firmly believes that vocational education could unlock the potential of many when it comes to meeting the skills demand in digital and tech. And this isn’t just about 16-19 year olds, but adults too. So whether it’s laying down the groundwork for a digital profession, making a career change, or looking to reach your next level of expertise, there are multiple ways to access a career in digital. Or at least ensure you have the foundations to help your progress in an ever digitally-focused world. 

While apprenticeships and access to higher education courses are also valuable routes into a digital role without having to go to university, it’s important to know that not every course has to be purely focused on digital. Many courses available teach transferable IT skills, helping to build confidence and boost career prospects. 

Vocational studies are accessible options for those that don’t necessarily have the entry requirements for university. There are many avenues to prepare for a future job role by upskilling and reskilling, and an apprenticeship is a great example of this as they are ideal for leaning on the job and working with others in the profession. We’re already offering courses in digital marketing, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, to name a few.

Within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs will require some element of digital skills (Learning and Work Institute, 2021) so preparing the workforce of today to be ready for this is essential. For many there is a fear of taking on a digital or technical qualification through a lack of understanding or feeling that it’s not relevant to them. Further education colleges are perfectly placed to offer a breadth of options for any level of learner looking to access jobs within these sectors, or simply looking to improve their basic digital skills. Whether it’s working closely with businesses or breaking down accessibility barriers, Leeds City College is determined to tackle the digital divide in a bid to support the workforce of the future. 

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