National training provider, Learning Curve Group (LCG), hosted a roundtable discussion with Lord Agnew and the Cabinet Office, local business leaders and education providers to discuss the levelling up strategy with digital skills. LCG welcomed the speakers to their brand new Business Academy in Darlington, which opened its doors to learners in September.

LCG’s Darlington Business Academy focuses on giving learners the knowledge, skills, qualifications and digital awareness to succeed in the modern-day workplace. The new academy aims to close the business and digital skills gaps that many employers across the region have experienced. LCG worked with local businesses when developing their training programmes to understand exactly what skills and needs employers desire in their future recruits.

The roundtable discussion explored the current skills deficit in digital and the urgent need for training in digital skills for commitment for the future. The pandemic has accelerated the development in digital, we are currently 5-7 years ahead of expected technological advancements, so we need to act now to ensure we are equipping our future workforce with the skills they need.

Lord Agnew, who was appointed Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Her Majesty’s Treasury on 14 February 2020, was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System and also served as a non-executive board member at the Department of Education.

Lord Agnew said: “Learning Curve Group’s Business Academy is a fantastic alternative to University. Whilst I am not against the University route, I believe that young people should be given a range of opportunities to develop the skills they need. Digital skills are an essential part of the modern workforce and I would encourage employers to engage with organisations like Learning Curve Group to upskill their employees to equip them with the tools required to succeed.”

Some businesses are currently demanding over five years experience for digital vacancies, which narrows opportunities for young people and those who wish to retrain, when instead they could recruit individuals and look at how they can train them to suit the needs of their business through apprenticeships or online courses. By focusing on providing the training and education for young people to gain digital skills, it will make them increasingly valuable to organisations across the region.

Judith Allen, Director of Academies at LCG, said: “It has been fantastic to have the support of Lord Agnew and our roundtable attendees on our mission to deliver training that will close the current digital skills gap and suit the demand of employers.

At Learning Curve Group we strive to transform lives through learning, and we believe that through our innovative courses at our Darlington Business Academy we can support the next generation into successful careers in the digital sector.”

The roundtable concluded that it is important to raise aspirations and improve connectivity and digital poverty. Digital skills training should be accessible to all individuals from any background, not just those taking the University route. The use of terminology and acronyms needs to be reviewed to ensure young people are not left behind. Cate Kalson, Director of Dynamo North East and Chief People Officer and Opencast Software, attended the roundtable and said: “It was great to hear the commitment from the Government to collaborate with regional organisations such as Dynamo North East who have been working for many years to catalyse growth of the digital economy here. We need to connect with diverse communities in the North East to inspire more people to consider careers in digital roles and work collectively as employers to dramatically increase the number of training-oriented roles available, if we do both these things we can have a huge impact on the opportunities available to local people.”

Robert Shaw, Chief of Staff at Innovate UK, said: “It is a pleasure to join local business and education leaders together with national government organisations to help build growth in the North-East of England through digital skills.”

Rebecca Durber, Director of Public Affairs at AELP, said: “It was fantastic to join AELP patron member Learning Curve Group for an insightful afternoon at Darlington Business Academy, with Minister of State Lord Agnew. We had a great discussion around digital Britain, the levelling up agenda and supporting skills development in the North East with colleagues from the Cabinet Office and various local stakeholders. Independent Training Providers- who have unrivalled links with employers of all sizes- are ready to step up and support the Government’s ambitions to place the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the further education system.”

LCG’s Darlington Business Academy is located in the Old Exchange, Barnard Street, and delivers courses in Digital Marketing, Cyber Security, Software Development, Accountancy, Business and more. These courses give young people the opportunity to specialise in a specific sector to work their way up to a career. LCG work with local employers in Darlington to place their academy graduates into employment or apprenticeships. The award winning training provider currently has over 50 skills-based academies across England which specialise in Hair and Beauty, Construction, Pre-uniformed Services and Health and Social Care. They have proven to be one of the most successful training and education providers in the country by working with over 4,500 employers to deliver successful training programmes to over 200,000 learners a year.

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