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Digital body comes out fighting

Tuesday 6 November 2012 6:00

The organisation which was formed in the aftermath of Codeworks' closure will next week announce a number of new initiatives for the region’s digital sector, writes Andrew Mernin.

The digital business group formed in the wake of the closure of regional body Codeworks earlier this year has revealed plans for a new apprenticeship pilot and a portal for graduates to support North East firms in need of technology-related skills.

The organisation, formed through the amalgamation of Gateshead Council’s digital creatives network The Hub and Codeworks’ networking arm Connect, will also re-launch under a new brand at an event next week.

The group has also submitted an application for a share of the Government’s £250m Employer Ownership of Skills pilot scheme, aimed at enabling organisations to design and deliver their own training solutions.

Its long term challenge will then be to fill its public funding void with membership fees, sponsorship income and other advertising and related fees it generates as it adjusts to becoming self-sufficient.

Promoting and encouraging the emergence of new opportunities within the North East’s digital sector is also on its remit, through collaboration with numerous other creative and digital bodies and its tendering service.

For Herb Kim, the New Yorker who was the driving force behind Codeworks during its 10 year history and who now serves as chair of the fledgling partnership, the early signs since the support agency announced its closure in July, have been largely positive.

“The merger is going really well so far, and it’s been great to receive a genuinely warm welcome and positive response from our two communities and key partners,” he said.

“One change we have decided to make is in branding. While both networks have very strong identities in their own respect, the merger gives a new opportunity to develop fresh branding that represents our unified voice and the North East digital and creative sector on a regional, national and international basis.  We’ve involved members in the re-branding process to help ensure the new brand represents our strengths as a region and sector.

“Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the continuing growth of the JobsinDigital service. Since the merger, JobsinDigital has been more active than ever before and it’s fast becoming one of the key portals to advertise digital and creative vacancies,” he added.

Networking events – which were a major part of what Codeworks did and something of a forte for Kim thanks to the hugely successful Thinking Digital event he now heads up – are likely to feature prominently in his plan going forward.

Buts skills development remains high on the agenda. “Outside of our monthly newsletter, PR promotion and the all-important networking events which we’ve become well known for, we also concentrate on business growth and talent activities.

“We’re working to develop an Apprenticeship pilot scheme that fits the needs of digital/creative employers,” he said, “we’re also working to develop a graduate and talent portal, so watch this space for more news. The group is also in the process of developing what it calls an “industry-led advisory board”.

Kim said: “Our overall target is to ensure we are providing valued assistance to our member companies. Because our membership involves an annual subscription, our ability to retain members and grow the membership is perhaps the single best way to gauge our success.

“In the short term, our focus has been concentrated around maintaining a high level of service to our members through this period of change. We are also developing a new brand for the merged networks to make clear we aren’t just repeating the past. We want to learn from what worked in the past to ensure the new network is better than ever.”