Digital Jersey have revealed plans to set up a 3,000sqm Digital Skills Academy, at a cost between £8m and £13m, in a bid to drive up the numbers of local students enrolling in digital courses.
Only 17 out of 1,000 students go on to study digital courses in higher education each year, which Digital Jersey says isn't enough to meet the needs of the local economy.
The organisation says there is a need for a coordinated approach to spur innovation and the development of digital skills in the island and that work must be done to increase "interest and opportunity throughout all ages in digital subjects within our schools."
Launching its strategy at the Radisson Hotel, Digital Jersey presented two key proposals, one of them being a Digital Enterprise Academy. The Academy would be a "specialist and recognised campus for digital skills" and act as the focus for a range of important activities including "industry-academic collaboration; a space for teaching and learning; space for digital start-ups and micros."
“Around 17 people in every year group of 1,000 pursue digital or IT at degree level qualification every year” Faith Graham, Redbox Research pic.twitter.com/iA1NpiEQTI— Digital Jersey (@DigitalJersey) April 17, 2018
Working with the University of Exeter, which runs the Exeter Science Park, a £8 million facility providing accommodation for "knowledge-intensive business start-ups and training facilities," Digital Jersey priced up the cost of such an academy between £8.1m and £13.2m. The price would vary depending on market conditions at the time of building and the size of the facility.
Digital Jersey said experience from similar developments has shown that 3,000sqm of space is needed for a "critical mass of tenants and economies of scale in the provision of services."
To enable more students to enrol in courses at the Academy, Digital Jersey would also like the facility to include at least 40 units of accommodation. It is hoped the accommodation would be one of three activities providing income for the Academy, along with serviced office space and chargeable training events. In their Strategy document, Digital Jersey said that on average, there is a 10 to 15 year return on investment on student accommodation.
Building on pre-existing courses in compulsory and further education, the Academy would focus on project-led qualifications, including degree apprenticeships, short-courses and continuing professional development (CPD).
Digital Jersey said: "The Academy should be the step-change needed to accelerate the growth of Jersey’s digital economy, offering a dedicated facility that socialises educators, learners and employers under one roof. Bringing these siloed activities under one shared space will power-charge the digital sector, forging relationships that ultimately lead to knowledge sharing and innovation."
Pictured: Digital Jersey worked with the University of Exeter to provide a range of costings for a new Digital Skills Academy.
But Digital Jersey's Strategy also says that more work need to be done at school level. Research from the Marchmont Observatory, based at the University of Exeter, has shown that there are not enough digital courses or training options at Key Stage 4 and 5 respectively. In addition, opportunities to retrain and upskill in ‘digital’ in tertiary and higher-education are few and far between.
The organisation hopes to have a costed, agreed and approved proposal for the launch of the academy and its corresponding university infrastructure by the end of the year.
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