A new Digital Skills Academy, set to be established in Coventry, has announced the appointment of a director to lead its offer to the digital sector. Matthew Smith, who formerly ran his own training business delivering database design, networking and cloud-based solutions, takes up his appointment with immediate effect.

Matt has more than 13 years’ experience within the further education sector and has worked at senior management level within several large college groups. He established his own business as a private training provider in 2007 and has since progressed to managing a range of provision from entry level studies right up to Level 7. He is passionate about innovation and enjoys developing new training programmes that make an impact on the lives of students and the success of employers.

On joining the Digital Skills Academy, Matt said, “I am delighted to be heading up this new specialist provision that is designed to put businesses in the best position to progress and grow within the digital sector. From my own experience, I know how much success depends on the talent within your team. People are the greatest asset of any tech company because it is their ability to apply the skills, harness the creativity and bring to life innovative ideas that underpins every amazing technological achievement.

“I am fully committed to working with the digital sector to ensure that the Digital Skills Academy provides them with access to the talent they need, and the flexibility to respond to changing priorities. One of my first jobs is to reach out to employers within the digital space because I want to make sure that our offer meets their complex needs. The Digital Skills Academy will be stronger as more businesses get involved and provide valuable input. I firmly believe our provision, and the sector as a whole, will be stronger if we work together.”

The Digital Skills Academy was set up following a successful bid led by North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College to secure funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in response to growing momentum for the fast-paced digitisation of the UK.

The Academy offers students a pathway to ‘in demand’ digital jobs including software development so that businesses can access a pipeline of people with higher level skills and address gaps within their workforce. In addition, students will be able to access opportunities to improve the types of digital skills on which every business increasingly relies.

Courses and apprenticeships at a range of levels are available online and will also be offered at the Academy’s base which is being set up the Coventry University Technology Park in the heart of the city’s technology zone, or on employers’ own premises if required.

The West Midlands is a key national centre for the tech and digital sector with nearly 14,000 tech and digital businesses, five per cent of the national total and more than any other combined authority area in the country.

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College said, “I am delighted to welcome Matt to this important post. As we have seen during the coronavirus lockdown period, businesses that can harness the power of technology are able to be much more agile and the same is true for individuals within their careers. Investment in digital skills is crucial to future-proof our region’s workforce and continue to help establish the West Midlands as the UK’s leading tech hub.

“The WMCA’s funding for the Digital Skills Academy is a huge step in making sure we are providing citizens with every opportunity to thrive in tech roles, and we look forward to seeing how it makes a real and positive difference to the people and businesses of the West Midlands.”

The Digital Skills Academy will work in partnership with employers to make sure its training offer is highly relevant and that it is able to support them by providing skilled individuals to boost their workforce. Employers will be involved in the delivery of masterclasses as part of the academy offer and students will be able to access live job opportunities as they arise.

The new academy has been designed to provide high quality industry-relevant teaching on a flexible basis at a range of levels creating a clear technical education pathway that takes account of individuals’ starting points. Courses are free for those living within a WMCA postcode area.

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