Uncovering hidden opportunities in the North East digital economy

Paul Lancaster at Bunker Coffee

I was saddened to read in The Journal recently that teenagers in the North East are the least confident in the country about their future prospects (see here).

Apparently just 45% think they’ll be in a career of their choice by 2026, they have much lower salary expectations than teenagers in other parts of the country and are completely unaware of opportunities on their doorstep. There’s a clear mismatch between the jobs teenagers say they want and those which economic forecasters say are likely to be available in the future, with too many looking to traditional industries that are dead or dying.

It’s easy to blame the Government, schools or teachers for not doing enough to provide good and up-to-date careers advice but what are we as parents, grandparents, business owners or leaders doing to help raise awareness of the opportunities available to the young people of our region?

We need to take collective responsibility for the problem and recognise that if we don’t, the often cited ‘brain drain’ is only going to get worse as talented and ambitious young people leave our area, believing that it’s the only way to get on in life.

There are huge opportunities all around us, particularly in the IT, tech, digital and creative sectors.

The problem is that unless you work in these sectors, digital jobs can seem ‘invisible’ or ‘other-worldly’, unlike a large factory at the end of your street where everyone works. But once you know where to look, you will see opportunities everywhere in what I believe is the friendliest, most supportive and accessible industry in the UK, where your ideas and what you can make happen are far more important than your academic qualifications.

A great place to start is TechDiary.co.uk, which is a fantastic free resource that lists pretty much all of the tech/digital events, workshops and seminars happening in the region, most of which are free to attend. And for any young people in your family, I recommend showing them the excellent free https://careerhacker.uk website from Sunderland-based Geek Talent which uses data to match skills with real life job vacancies and give tailored free careers advice to students or people who wish to try something new.

I’d also encourage you to learn more about the great work that organisations like Digital Union and Dynamo North East are doing to champion and promote the IT/digital sector in our region, the North East Futures UTC (University Technical College) and National Institute for Smart Data Innovation (NISDI) and make a point of visiting Campus North too – the co-working and event space in Newcastle which is full of digital entrepreneurs and was recently voted ‘Best Workplace in Britain’ by Adzuna in recognition of the fantastic community they have grown there.

On a personal note, I’m on a mission to promote the North East as the best place to start and grow a digital business and am working with a wide range of people and organisations on a new place marketing campaign using the #ThisIsMINE (Made In North East) strapline.

We’re inventing the future of our region and would love you to join us. Let’s go!

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