The Importance of Embracing Digital
As digital technology continually advances, businesses need to adapt to the changing digital landscape in order to thrive and not be left behind.
It is not only through the online world that digital skills can transform a business, these skills can also help a business streamline its processes and provide a more efficient infrastructure in-house.
James Oliver, our Head of Curriculum and Quality for Computing, kindly answered some of our questions about the importance of embracing digital in a business:
1. What do digital skills in the workplace consist of and which ones should businesses focus on?
Digital skills are very broad in terms of subject area, from Cyber Security, Software or Web Development which can apply to many businesses. We also must consider the level as there are introductory skills to more intermediate and advanced.
In the computing department, we teach some of the more specialised areas that businesses also need to focus on, an example of which is cyber security. This is a key consideration for any internet connected business. Cyber security is an interesting example because while there is a great need for skilled experts to support business as employees or consultants, it’s important that everyone within a business understands that many threats come through con tricks and manipulation. People can be persuaded to give up important information just because someone asks! So it really is the responsibility of everyone at a business to be aware of cyber security. Yes, you can run virus checkers and have firewalls in place, but if a person in an official looking jacket with a fake ID can just ask an employee for information, the technical measures are all for nothing.
2. What challenges are businesses facing when trying to embrace digital technologies?
Many businesses are struggling to recruit people with the right skills. There is a lack of people in many digital job roles such as software developers, for example, who develop the apps for desktops, mobiles and websites.
All these roles are high level skill positions that command good salaries, some can even earn £40,000 a year as their starting salary. Despite the ups and downs in the economy, these are the people that get snapped up quickly and the trend in recruitment for these roles is always up.
The challenge is encouraging people into these roles as they have a reputation for being very technical and there is a perception that there can be a high bar for entry. That’s why we are focusing on making technology as accessible as possible here at D&A College, starting out at SVQ level 5 and 6, students can then progress to HNC and HND level. We also make digital retraining and upskilling more accessible for employers as well.
3. Why should businesses embrace digital?
Digital should be embraced because it is already here and isn’t going anywhere. Businesses are more successful when they have a digital presence as they can take advantage of a whole range of digital skills that can boost their productivity or have the right security setup to not only protect your own data but to protect the data of your customers.
Not only that, some of these roles, such as software developers, are the skilled people that are building the apps for us all to conduct business on and as the technology improves, the way we conduct business digitally will also improve.
4. In what ways can digital advance a business?
Computing and tech as a field is one of the keys for growth. Having employees understand how it works can bring a lot of value to a business. It can even be small things like a small business owner knowing how to use Facebook properly to market their business better.
Embracing digital helps businesses to streamline processes and empower staff to find smarter ways of working. Being literate in programming can benefit a business as they can use digital tools at a more advanced level such as making spreadsheets more sophisticated which in turn increases productivity and efficiency.
Digital is not just about networking tools, working in digital also creates a certain type of thought process which focuses on problem solving. This is something we call ‘computational thinking’ - the idea that you can take a problem, break it into steps and take each step at a time to find a logical and practical solution, just like a computer or algorithm would.
This type of thinking is very helpful when it comes to businesses wanting to gain vital insights through data analysis. Data analysis is something businesses are paying attention to more and more. This is when you not only gather and store data but analyse it for forward planning.
5. Why is data analysis important to businesses?
It is good to understand data analysis as it can help improve decision-making and identify opportunities in business. There are certain skills that are needed to gather, store and maintain data.
For example, in digital marketing, many businesses make use of analytical platforms such as Google Analytics. This is a web analytics tool that provides reports on your website traffic to give you a better understanding of your customers, e.g., where they go frequently on your website, what they do on your website, etc. Being literate in these types of tools gives you a competitive edge as you can make more informed decisions.
Especially in the world of Computer Games, we are see developers add analytics into their games so they can use insights to keep engagement and interest up, and give the players what they enjoy. This naturally leads to more sales! This example applies to websites and apps just as it does to games.
6. Are there any particular partners D&A College works with to offer digital training to businesses?
Yes, right now we offer the re/Start programme by Amazon Web Services. This course is mostly to do with cloud computing and programming. It helps people retrain and upskill in the tech industry. Students gain placements with businesses, we have a few well-known companies that are involved, giving students placements such as Waracle, Trade Print and N-able. Participants on the course range from school leavers to those who are older and want to upskill. We are always looking for opportunities to work with partners for the benefit of our area.
7. How can businesses get involved with the college?
We focus on being industry-led here at the college so we like to work in close partnership with businesses so that both our learners and the employer can benefit. This can involve a whole range of activities such as the business giving industry talks to students or hosting master classes, to offering placements for apprentices.
We like to work long-term with partners as it is added value to them investing in their workforce at this early stage. For example, we have a great partnership with game developer, Ninja Kiwi. Their Executive Vice President, David Hamilton, comes in and gives talks to our students which is invaluable to them being able to hear from someone directly in industry. The company holds placements for our students as they see the value in it since our students will be their eventual, future employees.
We also have a work simulation space where industry-linked master classes can take place and our students can get a taste of what it is like working in a real-life work environment, making them more prepared for the role once they start. We’ve had cyber security companies such as Systal and CovertSwarm host talks and master classes in this space, so it is a fantastic way for businesses to get involved and potentially meet their future workforce.
8. Anything else exciting in your area that you would like to tell us about?
Esports is a new area of our curriculum we have been developing, particularly since the gaming industry is growing in the city and with the Dundee Esports Arena going to be built on Dundee Waterfront. We want to capture this opportunity as new subject with a range of different contemporary skills. The arena will see many new companies coming to the city and so websites will need to be built, software developers will be needed to create apps, network developers will be needed to connect everything up, etc. There will be a whole range of jobs that we want to get our students ready for.
It is not just about Esports either, there are a whole host of skills around it that will need a workforce such as social media and marketing, event management, project management, sports psychology and nutrition, broadcasting, the list goes on. Learning these skill sets will also give our students an opportunity for similar jobs in other industries if they do not get that Esports job they want right away the skills are highly transferrable.