Tracy Westall: Making the Midlands the home of Public Sector digital

Curium | 30 Aug 2018 | News | General News, General

Next month, Birmingham will host a conference to put the Midlands front and centre of the Public Sector digital scene. In her guest blog, senior business advisor and digital and technology expert, Tracy Westall, explains why the Midlands is a perfect home for Public Sector digital.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a proud Brummie. I love where I’m from. I love the heritage, tradition, work ethic and creativity that’s shaped the region I call home. Walking around this now unrecognisable city, I marvel at how far it has come.

I even love my accent, which thanks to Cillian Murphy and the Peaky Blinders is now, dare I say, slightly cool! So, any opportunity to shout about how great it is here, I will take with both hands.

It’s no surprise to me that according to the latest Tech Nation report, Birmingham and the surrounding area now has 41,550 digital jobs and a sector generating £2.2 Billion. Innovation is not new to us; the West Midlands led the last Industrial Revolution so playing a key role in the new ‘digital tech’ revolution makes absolute sense.

And what do you need to make digital thrive? Firstly, skills – lots of them. And while it’s well known that digital skills are in short supply, it’s brilliant to see that we have some things in place to help with that in the Midlands.

Check out the fabulous School of Code, the brainchild of Chris Meah, a technology entrepreneur, delivering training to people who maybe wouldn’t have considered undertaking digital skills but have secured new jobs because of it.

Check out Digital Innov8ers developed by ex tech sector Director, Mick Westman, which works with Solihull College to provide students aged 16+ with practical and real business skills underpinned by digital capability. The results are amazing and humbling, especially as some of these youngsters would certainly have fallen through the skills cracks. Credit to the companies who have spotted their potential and employed them.

And check out the Digisheds Smart Skills Engine programme being developed by Founder CEO, Alex Cole, which leverages services and technologies to close the digital skills gap. Specifically targeting ‘new collar’ jobs, it will help to future-proof our digital and non-digital sectors: a game changing approach.

Secondly, the Midlands is already home to a rich pool of public sector organisations: Highways England, HS2, and more parts of central government than most people know including Office of the Public Guardian, Courts and Tribunal Service, HMRC and The Insolvency Service. That’s on top of the many long-established public sector service providers in health, education, local government and police.

And finally, we have passion. We have motivated teams and individuals who are firm believers that Public Sector digital is #notjustlondon, are passionate about all the Midlands has to offer and are busy mobilising our community. This is backed by strong political support in the shape of Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. With his background in retail as former Managing Director of John Lewis, he understands all too well the importance of digital and its transformational impact. Because of this he’s created the Urban Challenge to identify digital solutions to public service problems in the region.

So, the question really is why shouldn’t the Midlands be the home of Public Sector digital? We have it all – a great heritage in innovation, digital skills and a plan for the future, a thriving public sector community and the passion and drive to make the Midlands the best regional destination for tech talent and public sector organisations to bind together.

Public Sector Digital Midlands is on 27 September and is hosted by Office of Public Guardian and sponsored by Curium Solutions.

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