A new Digital Skills Academy that was launched this year to help digitise the UK has been recognised with an award for its efforts to help people who are unemployed to gain new IT skills and those at work to progress in their careers.

The award was announced as part of an online ceremony by Graham Hunter, Vice President for Skills Certification at CompTIA, which provides accreditation for the Academy’s digital qualifications. As ‘Academic Newcomer of the Year’ for Europe, the Digital Skills Academy, part of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC), was one of three award winners to be singled out for special commendation.

Graham Hunter said, “Despite the challenges faced by educational institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners’ efforts to deliver training have not faltered. We are proud to work with organisations that value and deliver high-quality training and certification as much as we do. For many IT pros, the knowledge and skills they employ today were sparked and nurtured under the tutelage of teachers, instructors and trainers from a CompTIA authorised partner”.

The Digital Skills Academy offers a series of courses built on CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals, A+, Network +, Security+ and Cybersecurity Analyst+ certifications. Each certification provides students with the fundamental skills needed to start a career in technology.

Based at Coventry University’s Technology Park campus, the Academy was launched in 2020 following a successful bid led by NWSLC to secure funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority. It is responding to growing momentum for the fast-paced digitisation of the UK and an acknowledgement across all sectors that digital skills increasingly sit at the heart of all careers.

Offering students a pathway to ‘in-demand’ digital jobs in software development and cybersecurity, the Academy helps businesses to access a pipeline of people with higher-level skills and address gaps within their workforce. In addition, students are able to access opportunities to improve the types of digital skills on which every business increasingly relies.

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC, and skills lead on the Digital Skills Academy board, said, “This is a great accolade for the Academy, the latest addition to our network of six campuses. Digitisation represented a significant challenge before the coronavirus pandemic and, since lockdown, we have learned to become doubly dependent on IT skills. It is vital that the West Midlands’ workforce is equipped to meet the challenges of the fast-paced development in digital technologies.

“The Academy plays a pivotal role in delivering skilled individuals to the digital sector in highly specialised areas such as software development and cybersecurity. Building on this, we acknowledge that everybody needs digital skills at some level to participate productively within the workplace so provision will enable individuals to enhance their career progression opportunities in whatever industry they work.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “Re-skilling and upskilling have such critical roles to play in our region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Tragically as a result of Covid-19, people are losing their jobs in the region, so training in the skills that employers want and need is a crucial way of finding employment again quickly. We know there is a digital skills gap across all industries, and jobs in technology continue to be in high demand even during the lockdown.

“It’s great news that NWSLC’s Digital Skills Academy has been recognised for its work in upskilling local people, and I would like to congratulate everyone involved. This shows how important it is that we fund training in digital skills to get people into the jobs of the future. I would urge anyone who has fallen out of work or who is worried about their future employment to see what training options are available through the West Midlands Combined Authority.”

The 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.

For more information visit www.digital-skillsacademy.co.uk or call 0330 058 3000.