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Mayor backs College’s campaign to boost digital skills

Digital skills that will transform Tees Valley are being programmed at Middlesbrough College, thanks to a new campaign backed by Mayor Ben Houchen.

With demand for specialist skills in the region, Middlesbrough College’s ‘Digital Skills for Tees Valley’ campaign aims to shine a light on the sector, promote the opportunities available to young people and encourage them to consider a career in digital.

The digital sector is booming and despite a thriving tech scene, the number of students studying computing and digital courses is declining year on year, both in Tees Valley and nationally.

The campaign’s launch coincides with today’s announcement by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston about the start of a journey to transform Middlesbrough into THE digital city in the UK.

Ben visited Middlesbrough College to meet tutors, students and alumni to discuss the opportunities available – and tried his hand at coding and working with specialist STEM robots.

He said: “In Tees Valley, Teesside, the whole of the UK and internationally, digital is going to be the key sector in years to come.
“Whether it’s gaming, programming or in any business as digitisation takes over, employers will require digital skills – it’s a fundamental part of our education system, just like reading or writing.

“Young people need to understand if they want a successful career in the future, it needs to be underpinned by digital skills.”

Ben was taken on a tour of MC Digital, the College’s dedicated technology department, led by experienced tutors from industry backgrounds, and met current and former students who are already carving an exciting career in the tech industry.

He added: “Middlesbrough College is well ahead of the curve in what it’s doing to promote digital skills – this is a college that isn’t just training young people but also helping them get into work and secure high-quality jobs, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive at Middlesbrough College, said: “We have seen the trends and sadly, the number of people studying computing or a digital-related subject at school is dropping sharply at about 20 per cent per year – while jobs in that sector here in the Tees Valley are going up about 10 per cent per year.

“We’re on a mission, here at Middlesbrough College, working with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and local businesses to turn that around and to inspire people from a young age to think about digital as a possible career option.

“Digital spans across all industries, it’s part of every business and is growing considerably so if we can turn that decline around and encourage young people to consider it as an option, their career opportunities will open up in front of them.”

Middlesbrough College tutors are already out in the community building digital skills for the future, including Dr Anwar Bashir who runs a coding club to engage learners from a young age. The College also hosts regular ‘Digifests’, interactive computing events for 13-16 year olds to encourage young people to get involved and try out some programming, networking and explore the world of virtual reality and emerging technologies.

There are routes for everyone with courses ranging from Levels 1, 2 and 3, which are ideal for young people leaving school, to degrees, Foundation degrees and Access to Higher Education (HE) aimed at adult learners and those wanting to learn higher level skills.

Courses are delivered across the College’s specialist computer labs, using the latest state-of-the-art equipment and industry software.

Thanks to its team of highly qualified tutors and creative digital facilities, Middlesbrough College is one of the first in the country to run the NextGen: Skills Academy Course – a collaboration with industry experts to develop the next generation of digital talent.

As the only College in the Tees Valley area to offer this opportunity, students are offered a unique pathway into the Games, Animation and Visual Effects (VFX) industries.

The Government recently endorsed the College’s success in this area with the announcement that it will be the only college in the area approved to run new T Level qualifications in digital which allows students to gain industry experience for two days per week alongside their Level 3 course.