As well as being home to BrightonSEO, the city is host approximately 7,500 businesses, of which around 1,495 are in the Creative, Digital and IT sector, contributing almost £1bn to the local economy. And according to the 2001 census, the majority of Jedi’s in the UK live here too!
That “creative flair” is reflected in the diversity and growth of Brighton’s digital community – in the recent “Tech Nation” report, Brighton’s digital cluster was recognised as one of the fastest growing in the UK, achieving an increase of 91% by number between 2010 and 2013 And that growth has resulted in the UK’s highest concentration of digital businesses, at 3.3X the national average number of digital businesses per head of population.
So for us people in the industry the prospects are good for an exciting career ahead but, for the businesses involved, the lack of availability of suitable skills is actually hindering growth.
There is plenty going on to address skills shortages; in 2006 locally based digital businesses including SiteVisibility, WPM, CogApp, Nixon McInnes, Madgex, iCrossing and White Hat Media helped to set up Wired Sussex which works on behalf of over 2500 members. One of its successes has been the Intern Placement Programme which has helped hundreds of young graduates to start a career in digital marketing and there are probably quite a few at BrightonSEO!
But if you’re a 16-18 year old from Moulsecoomb in East Brighton, only 1 km from two great Universities in Falmer and less than 4km from Brighton & Hove City centre, your chances of getting into, let alone benefitting from the local boom in digital and creative jobs have been historically low. Many are not aware of the digital media boom taking place on their doorstep.
Back in 2007 we started to work with the then Falmer High School to help raise awareness of digital career opportunities in Brighton. In 2010 the High School was replaced by the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA), a £20m+ brand new school which is part of enormous efforts to improve opportunities in the local area and address the social inequality in our City.
But with 83 per cent of schools no longer employing professional careers advisers, schools rely on businesses like ours to help bring the world of work to life.
So, in 2014 Legal & General, SiteVisibility and CPJ Field & Co came together, supported by Brighton & Hove Council and co-ordinated by Business in the Community, to form the Brighton Business Impact Group (BIG) with the aim of helping BACA to dramatically increase the percentage of school leavers who enter employment.
BIG members are providing a variety of support over the next year, based on key needs as identified by BACA. It started small with Directors and colleagues from SiteVisibility and CPJ Field & Co delivering sessions on the world of business to a group of year 10 business studies students including Business, Marketing and Finance, all delivered by team members and helping us to build trust and relationships with the students.
The second phase dealt with employability skills including the practicalities of how to prepare a CV and apply for a work placement together with the interview skills required to be successful on the big day. One of the nicest surprises was how commercially savvy the students proved to be and how the positively the students have responded to the opportunity, watching their confidence grow.
With BACA we decided that rather than simply offering a work placement we would ask students to go through a recruitment process and compete for the opportunity. This provided the students with an insight to how competitive the jobs market is and provided a fantastic opportunity to gain feedback on how they interviewed.
Following writing a formal application letter, students then took part in a real life interview to discuss their skills and experience and suitability for the position. The work placements will be took place in April – one in Finance at CPJ Field & Co. and the other in Marketing at SiteVisibility.
That’s one work placement from each company – something that’s easily manageable for a small company. There are hundreds of companies attending BrightonSEO and if 10% of us took on one work placement from a local school like BACA, we could have a huge impact.
There are already some wonderful personal stories which show we’re having an impact, Sophie was one of the successful candidates who took the digital marketing work placement at SiteVisibility (Currently in year 10 and studying for 10 GCSE’s Sophie is keen to gain work experience alongside her qualifications.) She wasn’t the most confident of the students but she worked hard and impressed everyone with the improvements in her confidence and communications skills. Her teachers tell us she’s really come out of her shell since our involvement.
Without work experience, it’s difficult to get that first step on the career ladder. Many of us know that from personal experience – either as the candidate early on in our careers or today as the employer, would you employ someone without work experience?
Have a think about how you started in the industry. What was your lucky break? Did someone take a risk on you? If you’d like to give something back, this could be an ideal opportunity to help young people in Brighton to get that lucky break whilst also doing something practical and positive to help address one of the biggest issues facing our industry today.
Businesses interested in joining the Brighton BIG can contact Mike Toy on 023 9241 5760