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The juicy initiative helping hundreds of Manchester’s young people break into digital #DGMeets

This week, DG meets Sandy Lindsay MBE – the woman whose juicy initiatives are helping hundreds of young people in their digital careers – and she’s Chair of the IoD’s Skills Steering Group

You’re the IoD’s North West skills chair; you must really be feeling the challenges businesses up here are facing. Can you share some of these with us?

I’ve been working with the IoD in this role for almost a year now and so far I’ve been focusing on working with businesses and educators in the NW, making sure we represent their views and develop a true picture of skills gaps – and opportunities – within the region.

The Skills Group we’ve since established keeps us on top of the current challenges faced by businesses in the region; the digital skills gap continues to be a major concern for employers in most sectors.

We hear you’re also battling the digital skills shortage through your award-winning Juice Academy. Can you tell us about this and how it’s been going so far?

The Juice Academy is a social media apprenticeship, which was set up to address the skills shortage in digital marketing and create quality career opportunities for young people and it’s working really well. So far we’ve created more than 180 jobs for bright, young people in our region in companies such as Greater Manchester Police, Pets at Home, Ladbible, Social Chain and of course myriad digital and creative agencies.

Essentially, the programme sees school leavers working with their employers for 12 months and coming to The Juice Academy one day every other week for training by our tutors and guest speakers. We’ve also just launched a graduate programme, as there are thousands of young people who’ve gained a degree and can’t find the job of their dreams – applications are currently open to both grads and employers for this programme.

We’ve forged some great relationships with businesses in the NW through the process, placing the right young people in the right roles – crucially training them in the skills needed by each employer.

What do you think the government needs to focus on to fix the skills shortage? Are they doing enough to boost training & development?

Inward investment into the region is so important; thankfully there’ve been some great recent examples of this; from the recently announced iAMDigital £1m package through to funding we secured for Juice from Creative Skillset last year.  But the critical thing is that policy makers really listen to business leaders and educators in making their decisions. To this end, the IoD Skills Group, the North West Business Leadership Team Skills Group and the CBI in the region have all come together to set a ‘Charter’ from the ‘demand’ side as to what we think good looks like. This will be launched at the end of November and should help guide the process of funding and policy for education and skills in the region. Watch this space!

Do you think the academic world and businesses are working closely enough together to make sure future generations don’t feel the pinch of the digital skills shortage?

There’s always room for improvement and I don’t see why businesses and universities and colleges can’t work more coherently. Take a model like Juice, that’s all about bridging the gap between bright young graduates/apprentices and businesses; it’s a proven process that can be replicated by academic institutions and corporates alike. The government just needs to allow funding of these ‘different’ ideas and currently this isn’t happening.

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