With CyberNorth, I am always trying to think of new ways of engaging with the local cyber security companies and their potential clients. I try to mix things up. Our latest event was a round table with about a dozen people.
I know a round table meeting is far from new yet it felt like it following almost two years of lockdown. The aim of the event was to investigate how the local cyber businesses could work together to grow the sector. I had planned a game of two halves, with the group starting on what needed to be done to encourage growth with the second half talking about how the sector could collaborate better.
As always, I was overly optimistic and should have stuck to one topic. The discussion was good and lively though. Led by Ben from Aspire and Andrew from Fisk Consulting it soon became clear that the biggest obstacle to growth was the lack of suitable people to employ. Around the table there were approaching a hundred vacancies, with several of the businesses seemingly in constant hire mode.
Asking businesses to collaborate on winning contracts is a tall order, there are just too many issues of trust and obligations to cover. It became clear through the conversations, however, that skills development and employability were topics that businesses could work together on.
Of course there were lots of ideas, some complementary while others reflected the different needs of each business. For example, some focussed their attention on graduates while others shied away from them, preferring school leavers. Some took on apprentices while others found them hard to accommodate.
I mentioned the idea we had last year to develop a shared apprentice scheme, whereby businesses would get to work with apprentices for a shorter period, without so much of the managerial overhead, while the apprentices themselves would gain a wider experience of different businesses. There was agreement that this would be a good idea, if we could get it to work. I have someone who works with apprentices in mind to try and help and so let’s see.
In the end I felt that the meeting was a success even though I hadn‘t got round to covering everything I had wanted. That’s life yet there is so much more to think about.