Jill McKinney, Head of Skills & Training at Sunderland Software City, reveals how the North East Tech industry is retraining older workers to work in the Digital and Tech Sector. This Real Business Stories forms part of the Fuller Working Lives toolkit.
Can you introduce Sunderland Software City’s story so far in the time it takes to make a cup of tea?
Sunderland Software City supports the growth of the Tech industry. Our core offering is business support which covers several areas including technical, bespoke training, master classes and PR & Marketing
From a skills remit, we work with businesses across the whole of the North East and wider area to understand the skills they require to support their current work demands and what skills they will need in the future, we then translate this information into education so that students, teachers and other key influencers are aware of the required skills and the opportunities that are available to them.
We run specific events such as Tech Sector Day in partnership with Work Discovery Week Sunderland; and Go-Reboot which is a community and school engagement programme designed to showcase the sector, highlight hidden talents and help people take their first steps into a career in tech, including those that are looking to reskill or change career. We also run Tech Talent which is the North’s biggest tech specific careers and opportunities event. There are around 70 exhibitors and 1000’s of people looking for opportunities at all levels traveling from all over the North East and wider regions, including Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh. It is a great event for employers to have the opportunity to speak to potential candidates in an informal setting and network with other businesses in the North East.
As well as this we work with businesses of all sizes, including SME & larger corporates delivering bespoke training programs which support CPD plans and reduce attrition in the long term.
How did you get involved with the Fuller Working Lives partnership?
I have worked closely with Madeleine Liddle from the Education Development Trust and Lindsey Joy from the North East LEP for some time, so when they talked to me about the region's Fuller Working Lives strategy, I was really keen to get involved. For our sector, there is an increasing need to diversify the Tech/Digital workforce and with the skills gap by 2022, Fuller Working Lives seemed like a perfect opportunity to support the industry to understand the skills, knowledge and experience that the older workforce can bring to a team.
What are the benefits you have experienced from retraining older workers?
The tech sector historically has a “young” workforce, so the clear benefit of retraining an older worker is the knowledge, experience and hugely diverse, transferable skills they can bring to any business.
What approach did you prioritise when addressing the skills gap?
Through our community programme, Go-Reboot, we engage with people from all backgrounds and all ages to attend, including those that would be identified as the “older worker”. Go-Reboot is designed to showcase the Tech sector, the opportunities available and ways in which people can get involved.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to take measures to retrain older workers?
Retraining older workers will not only provide them with opportunities, but will also add huge value to your business. The knowledge and experience of an older worker cannot be replaced and should be embraced as a strength. If you’re looking for a programme in which you can reach out to older workers, our Go-Reboot is a great way to engage with your potential future workforce in an informal setting. You never know you might find your new team members!
What is next for Sunderland Software City in relation to retraining the workforce and the Fuller Working Lives partnership?
We will continue to run the Go-Reboot programme and actively encourage “older workers” to get involved.