The creation of a Digital Skills Institute and a new graduate retention programme are included in proposals by Mayoral candidate Andy Street to help the West Midlands prepare for the Digital Revolution and support the bid to bring Channel 4 to the region.
There are currently over 72,000 digital and creatives jobs in the West Midlands with businesses such as Codemasters, Serious Games International, ASOS and Fujitsu flourishing. There are forecast to be 29,000 more jobs in those industries by 2030.
Launching his Digital Plan for the West Midlands, Andy committed to:
- Co-sponsor technology accelerators where West Midlands businesses can develop new spin-off start up ventures, for example, the new London Midland Labs transport accelerator.
- Create a Mayor’s Digital Skill’s Institute with responsibility for leading digital training efforts in the West Midlands, bringing companies, start-ups, schools, colleges, and universities together to design and co-ordinate training efforts.
- Retain graduates who study in the West Midlands or who grew up here with a ‘West Midlands First’ programme, similar to Teach First which would encourage students to begin their careers in the region.
- Support innovative new approaches to skills training such as digital boot camps, which would train young people in basic coding and user experience design skills.
Andy said: “Digital is vital to the continued success of the West Midlands economy because it is the golden thread across all the industries which will provide jobs in the twenty-first century.
“While I lead John Lewis, we went from 12% orders online to over 50% during the last Christmas period. We needed to innovate to keep up with the needs of our customers.
“The Mayor needs to lead the charge to bring digital skills and digital jobs to the West Midlands. We need someone who has the necessary experience and skills to make it the digital revolution success for the West Midlands.”
Andy Street announced his Digital Plan at the launch of The Academy of Life, a new university being set up in the region. The university will deliver an innovative two-year undergraduate degree in Creativity & Innovation, giving students the qualities necessary for success in the twenty-first century.
The course will be based around real-world projects, working on important local challenges with community groups and companies in Birmingham, with all students taking part in a four-month project placement in Mumbai, India. The first cohort of 30 students is expected to begin their studies in September 2019, and the university hopes that there should be 150 students within five years.
Andy shared his support for the project, “The Academy of Life is a fantastic initiative. We need exactly this kind of innovative thinking to develop the skills for the future in the West Midlands. As Mayor, I will support projects like this which will help us build the digital skills for the twenty-first century.”