Leeds Digital Festival: 21st Century Digital Skills for a Diverse Workforce

The 21st Century Digital Skills for a Diverse Workforce panel discussion, took place on May 1st in the brand new NEXUS building. The main panel was introduced by Professor Neil Morris, Dean of Digital Education at the University, who spoke about the development of new online courses in collaboration with Future Learn. These courses are targeted at both students and non-students and seek to provide digital and professional skills that can be translated into the workplace. The courses will be available on mobiles, so everyone can make the most of what Louise Farrer calls “the five minutes while the kettle is boiling”.

Louise is part of the student recruitment team at PwC and she was one of the four panelists present in the day, alongside James Gupta, Holly Rafique and Ali Pickard. Holly, who is Head of Digital and Content at Techmums, started the discussion highlighting the male-domination in the technology industry, an issue the James, CEO of Synap, attributed partly to the early engagement that boys have with technology through things like video games. With regards to this matter, all the panellists agreed that it is important to motivate young girls to get into tech as early as possible, so a gender balance can be established. The discussion also explored diversity in terms of disability and age, which Ali Pickard, project centre manager at BJSS, recognizes is a limitation, thus he wishes for learning barriers to be decreased to provide more access to this kind of populations. Nevertheless, it was recognized that the tech community is advancing towards this goal, as Holly mentioned “technology is a brilliant equalizer” and in James’ opinion “tech is a very welcoming community”.

Other topics discussed in the panel included digital well-being and the importance of digital skills, with the former being enhanced at PwC thanks to their digital detoxing initiative were employees are taking time off the screens to focus on other aspects of life. With reference to digital skills, the panelists constantly highlighted how these are now basic and essential in the workplace and are not limited to “techy” people, as James puts it: “these days, a plumber has a website”; however, these skills are still largely unavailable in the talent pool, in fact, Louise revealed that if candidates were to be recruited only in digital skills basis, vacancies at PwC will not be filled.

The panel was closed after some audience questions were answered and everyone in the room was encouraged to actively participate in the development of the courses in collaboration with Future Learn. Some other courses developed by the University are already available and one can obtain a certificate upon completion, for more information visit: https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/university-of-leeds or https://www.leeds.ac.uk/info/130503/online_courses


Catalina Cepeda Pena
Hi! I’m Catalina and I am a third-year International Business and Marketing student undertaking my placement year at Pfizer. I come from Colombia, where I did the IB programme before coming to...
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