Bedford is combatting the digital skills shortage thanks to forward-thinking companies and advanced education providers.
MP Richard Fuller invited Minister of State for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles to join a platform alongside MatsSoft, a local technology business which has recently established an innovation centre in Bedford with international civil engineers Mott MacDonald.
Also on the panel were Ian Pryce Principal and CEO of Bedford College and Toby Thompson, Director of Networked Learning at Cranfield University.
Mr Fuller, Bedford & Kempston MP, and member of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee, said: “The digital revolution means the whole way we work will be completely changed - we are lucky to be supported here in Bedford by two institutions: Bedford College and Cranfield University.
“Given the Government’s commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 now is a great opportunity to identify gaps in local skills provision and to shape the content and direction of future courses.”
The Minister outlined four initiatives which will act as cornerstones of a forward thinking skills plan. These include government changes in the approach to funding apprenticeships via a new levy and the introduction of an independent Institute for Apprenticeships that would allow businesses to control how apprenticeships are delivered.
Ian Pryce talked about the need for ‘digital literacy’ across all age groups to support businesses and how the college was responding to that with 2,000 people going through computer courses at its High Street centre. Meanwhile World Class IT training with Higher or degree-level learning was delivered at the Cauldwell Street campus. Apprenticeships were the way to combine advanced level IT training with the real life experience young people needed to become valuable employees or entrepreneurs.
MatsSoft has won global recognition for its Low-code technology which enables business to achieve digital transformation without needing coding skills.
“This was a great opportunity to introduce people to the Low-code business-tailored technology we are now offering companies in partnership with an international innovator. We have a local MP who is helping to put Bedford on the national skills stage which is win, win for business,” said Martin Scovell, MatsSoft chief executive.
“Businesses that want to build new customer-facing apps fast face a huge barrier: the digital skills drought. It is estimated that from 2015-2017, demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT teams’ capacity to deliver them. In the UK, digital developer talent is so scarce it’s been added to the government’s Shortage Occupation Lists.
“With so few skilled developers available, businesses need a new approach – and with Low‑code, they get it. MATS Low‑code emphasises visual configuration, making it easy to use for people with few or no formal technical skills.
“Business users with knowledge of Excel, MS Access or process mapping can very quickly start using MATS Low‑code to design and develop working apps – rapidly expanding the internal developer pool without needing to find or hire digital talent.”