Technical skills have never been so important29 April 2020
Head of the new Institute of Technology, Amy Gadd, writes guest blog on why tech skills are crucial in these times
On the 27th January 2020 I was excited to be starting my new job as Head of the Yorkshire & Humber Institute of Technology. After 8 weeks into the role I had just about got my head around a new workplace layout, new faces and names to remember, new login’s and systems to navigate, and what the role required of me. Then suddenly like a tidal wave crashing, the world seemed to get turned upside down. Things that were previously so easy to do suddenly needed a lot of thought and planning. Alternatives had to be found, and a change of mindset of how to go about things was needed as we were told to ‘Stay at Home’.
I’m sure many of us have had to suddenly embrace new apps allowing us to stay connected online and to enable us to work from home? For me it was getting to grips with new tech such as Zoom parties, quizzes on Kahoot, and explaining to my parents how to install and do video calls on What’s App.
One positive I have found is that calls that I would have previously just done over the phone have now become video calls and it’s been much nicer to see the people I have been chatting to.
Talking to some of the colleges that are partners of the Institute, great efforts have been made to put more learning materials online, and for teachers to learn new skills to prepare and deliver their lessons online via Blackboard and Teams. There has been a massive step change for schools and colleges to keep learning going in a socially distanced environment. Distance learning suddenly became the new norm. The hard work, flexibility and adaptability has been impressive, and to ensure our resilience through this having people trained in high quality, higher level technical skills feels more essential than ever.
There is already a shortage of skills in the IT industry but the pandemic has shown us the value of digital technology in communications and entertainment, and it is ever more important that our data and communications are secure. We have had to adapt quickly to working at home which has meant using new applications which may have put a strain on office networks. The reliance on our ICT staff to keep things running has been crucial.
Engineering and manufacturing sectors have shown that adaptability is important to be able to meet demands for new designs and adapting existing machines to support the manufacture of rapidly developed items. Many 3D printers have been set to work to help manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and essential parts for respirators in record time. We have all heard about how the Mercedes F1 team helped the NHS to develop and manufacture the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. In France, robots have been used to help disinfect hospitals and a smart watch app has been developed to monitor oxygen levels of the wearer.
The retail sector is also having to adapt and use its data to manage changing demands for goods, particularly food. Online shopping has seen a huge demand spike. As shoppers adapt to a new way of shopping so too does the technology such as a new app to show queuing times and stock levels at local supermarkets.
Most essentially let’s not forget the part that digital health tech plays in a pandemic. Checking symptoms online and signposting people by adapting complex algorithms. Enabling online consultations by GPs and enabling prescriptions to be sent to pharmacies electronically. From gathering and analysing data to report on the scale of the pandemic, to analysing results of clinical trials in the hunt for a vaccine.
At the heart of all this though is people. The dedication, professionalism and compassion of many individuals is helping to find a way through this for us all. The skills that those people have are essential for them to do their jobs and for those key areas of work to respond and adapt quickly.
So, with all this in mind, I feel more motivated than ever to develop and grow the Yorkshire & Humber Institute of Technology. To work closely with employers, colleges and universities to ensure that high quality, higher-level technical skills are delivered to enable our region to stay flexible, adaptable and resilient to whatever is thrown at it, now or in the future.
For more information on the Institute of Technology, visit https://www.yorkcollege.ac.uk/course-types/institute-of-technology/4055-iot-partners.html