College makes strides to bridge digital skills gap

Solihull College & University Centre is working to fill skills shortages in the region with a number of exciting new ventures.

The West Midlands Combined Authority states ‘Tech and digital is the fifth largest sector in the West Midlands economy with nearly 14,000 tech and digital businesses in 2016, 5% of the national total and more than any other combined authority area in the country’. Birmingham is the UK’s premier centre for the sector outside London with just under 3,000 tech and digital firms. The College has been working to ensure students can help fill the digital skills gap and the shortages impacting on the region.

The College has been utilising cutting edge technology such as virtual reality as part of continuous strides towards immersive learning across a range of curriculum areas including computing, media, public services and animal management.

Head of Animal Management, Claire Powell states: “Working alongside Twycross Zoo, students utilised 360 degree video technology using a camera placed within an elephant enclosure. They were able to witness a view from an elephant’s unique perspective, helping them to establish the animal’s welfare.”

Linking education with employment is at the heart of everything the College does. Computing degree students have recently been working closely with Virgin Trains to build a virtual train carriage for use as a training tool. This allowed the company to work on safety initiatives on board.

In response to the skills gap, the College has developed a CAA approved Commercial Drone Pilot course, a direct response to a shortage of drone operators. The course will lead students towards employment across a number of industries including Photography, Media/Journalism, Surveying and Infrastructure.

Due to changes in the automotive and motor vehicle industry and the growth of hybrid technology, the College has also introduced electric and hybrid vehicle training to their existing motor vehicle provision. With new skills required both for the manufacture and maintenance of these vehicles, the College’s response reflects both national and regional priorities within this sector to enable the up-skilling of the local workforce.

These initiatives follow recent news of the College’s selection by the Department for Education as part of the second wave T Level providers from 2021. T Levels will be high-quality technical alternatives to A Levels, combining classroom theory, practical learning and an industry placement.

This is in addition to the announcement that a consortium led by the College has had their application approved to create an ‘Institute of Technology’. The IOT will focus on a range of specific technical skills needs in the region.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “The IoT will also support the introduction of T-levels and help underpin growth in apprenticeships, to support our regional aspiration that everyone has the opportunity to access great training and great careers in the West Midlands.”

College Principal, John Callaghan commented; “This is an exciting time for our students and staff. We are responding to the skills gaps in the region in a number of ways, getting our students ready for the jobs of the future. We strive to be at the cutting edge of technical and digital training for the region’s young people.”

Following GCSE results this week, the College will be hosting School Leaver Advice Days on Thursday 22nd August, 10am-6pm and Friday 23rd August, 9am-2pm at Blossomfield and Woodlands Campus.