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Digital Skills Academy launches and builds partnerships with business

Pictured from left to right are Stewart Harrison, Nicholas Gaggero and Dominic List at the launch of the Digital Skills Academy last week.

The Gibraltar Digital Skills Academy was officially launched last Thursday, just days after signing Memorandums of Understanding with two local technology providers, Comtact and Bland Group, to strengthen its links with business.

The Gibraltar Digital Skills Academy launched in September and provides training for students from all background and age groups, helping them to learn digital skills that will improve their prospects of finding jobs and ensure they can keep up with societal shifts to increased use of technology.

The MoUs will play an intricate and active part in developing the skills which the current job market requires, while also fostering meaningful partnerships with the digital sector which contributes greatly to Gibraltar’s economy and growth.

The companies will be committing to providing training plans, exams and certifications to the Academy and its attendees, as well as career advice; oversight into the technology market updates and industry trends; access to the latest cyber software solutions; attack simulations; live environment training and work placement and internships for Academy graduates.

The memorandums were signed by Nicholas Gaggero of Blands Group, Comtact CEO Dominic List, and the Academy’s founding trustee, Stewart Harrison, in the presence of the Minister for Digital and Financial Services, Albert Isola, in the Academy’s premises in Europort.

Mr Harrison said the “blueprint” of the Academy were the partnerships with the private sector and with experts in the field.

“It was an invaluable educational experience for our students and I think the success has shown us that it actually works,” he said.

“Signing these MoUs with big companies, some of the best in Gibraltar, coming in to actually mentor and teach our students and from there start offering work experience and internships and really giving a big push into where the skills gaps exist and where the job market is requiring these skills.”

“This is a massive thing for us that we are able to have such a great insight and partnership with these sectors.”

Bland Group will be the programming partner, and have already started Python courses, and will soon look into offering Java Script, two common computer languages used in the industry on the Rock.

Comtact already bring their established UK based cybersecurity academy and will continue to offer training, certification and upskilling in cybersecurity.

Comtact has already taken one local student on as an intern who will start his journey into acquiring professional qualifications and becoming a certified practitioner in the field.

Comtact works with some of the best-known brands across the UK to provide cyber security for their networks, including businesses, the UK Government and the Royal Palace.

“We are at the heart of cyber security defence and businesses every day are under major attacks and we see it every day, with huge breaches occurring in cyber security,” Mr List told reporters.

“It is a real area of focus and ever more so now when we are at the digital age where everything now is online and everything is connected together.”

“So we really support that and the huge focus is the area means there is a chronic skills gap in the UK and globally for well-trained cyber analysts and talents, so we are really proud to support Stewart and the academy in what is a vital area.”

“Not only creating extremely worthwhile, well paying jobs for local people but giving them great career opportunities but also providing a vital service.”

The Academy has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cyber Security Challenge UK, and its intention is to continue working with the Gibraltar Government to facilitate more partnerships with the private sector to help Gibraltar meet the skills needed and to ensure better jobs for the community, Mr Harrison said.

Bland Group has two companies that focus specifically on software development, so its commitment going forward is to support the continued development of the Academy, Mr Gaggero said.

This would be by providing internships, long-term jobs both in Gibraltar and the UK and providing support graduating from the Academy and sponsor them through university to “make sure we are building talent in Gibraltar”.

“This has been a seven year journey from when it first started and it has culminated in a premises with its own academy,” Mr Gaggero said while congratulating Mr Harrison.

“We are really going to support students here in Gibraltar that pick up key skills that are acquired in this new age.”

Those students who first started learning under Mr Harrison’s tutoring have now returned from the university, and are already working in the local tech industry.

This is just the start and Mr Harrison expects more local companies to sign up with the Academy, with “more to come”.

“This Academy is a wonderful example of what Gibraltar can do when we work together in a Private-Public Sector partnership,” Mr Isola said.

“We will upskill our youngsters into an area where there is much demand, and where more and more of our young people will be finding their careers in the future.”

Mr Isola said this is the “first step of many” that the Academy will be taking to foster these skills.

“Stewart could only go so far in terms of teaching and training, but the real benefit to the individuals is on the job, so working with firms in the respected areas and learning is the best thing we could do for our kids,” Mr Isola said.

“It will also give them insight into work, it may open up new careers for them and it will also give back those skills into the community in those jobs that we are looking for, so it is a win-win.”

OPENING

At the launch last week, Albert Isola, the Minister for Digital & Financial Services, said he had offered unwavering support for this initiative from the first time he met Mr. Harrison three years ago.

Mr. Harrison highlighted the importance connecting learners and employers as a means of closing skills gaps and ensuring everyone has access to technology irrespective of their background, one of the main goals of the Academy.

The academy is involved with local charities such as the EV Foundation run by Nicole Jones, which helps disadvantaged people.

The charity supports some of the worst off in our society and the Digital Skills Foundation is committing to ensure every child in Gibraltar has access to technology using both the Academy’s connections in the technology industry and by purchasing equipment.

Also supporting the launch of the Academy was Dr. Robert Nowill, Chairman of Cyber Security Challenge UK, who joined via Zoom.

“We are delighted to be in a position to support Stewart’s hard work and dedication to launch the Digital Skills Academy in Gibraltar,” he said.

“We’ve been lucky enough to call the students who represent the up-and-coming talent on the Rock part of the Challenge community over the years and will always be especially proud of their success.”

“Stay tuned as we progress with plans to collaborate further to expand the portfolio of opportunities, activities and training courses available through this brand new online platform.”

This was followed by Startup Grind Gibraltar hosting a panel discussion with Nicholas Gaggero CEO at Bland Group, Nadine Collado Director of Professional Development & Continuing Education at the University of Gibraltar, Dominic List Serial Tech Entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of Comtact and Sam Buxton CEO at Digital Asset Management Ltd.

This all coincides with Startup Grind global is celebrating DEI month during October, presented with Silicon Valley Bank and supported by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs.

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; 31 days to emphasize the importance of diversity across the global start-up ecosystem, and what it means to recognise and amplify the voices of leaders in its globally diverse communities, providing a platform for those that may not have been heard previously.

The conversation focused on identifying the digital skills gap with a cross section of different perspectives from a local start-up and enterprise, international enterprise and academia.

They each answered questions on the demand for digital skills, educational resources to bridge the gap between private sector needs and academic resources and the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The audience was actively engaged throughout with one of the guests visiting Gibraltar committing to make a generous donation.

The Academy has been sponsored by Europort, which has provided the premises for no rent during the next three years.

All profits made will go directly back into the Foundation and be used to provide even better training opportunities at the Academy and give back to those who need it most.

For more information about the courses available or to support the Academy please visit www.digitalacademy.gi/

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