Sheffield’s First Digital Festival Celebrates Next Generation of Talent

Posted: July 5, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Sheffield’s first annual festival to celebrate the city’s next generation of digital talent has launched this week.

Sheffield Digifest aims to showcase careers opportunities in the digital sector where there are skills shortages and opportunities for industry growth.

Primary and secondary pupils from 15 schools attended the event held at Sheffield Hallam University’s new Hertha Ayrton STEM Centre on Howard Street on July 4th.

An awards presentation also took place to celebrate the winners of the Code Make Win competition that nurtures Sheffield’s up and coming young digital talent.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council, said: “Sheffield has a thriving digital sector, with capacity for growth, and Sheffield Digifest wants to build on those exciting opportunities. We are delighted to support this new initiative alongside the city’s leading digital employers and education providers to nurture the next generation of digital talent.”

 Helen Walker, part of Sheffield Hallam University’s Schools and Colleges Engagement Team, said: “We were delighted to host Sheffield’s first digital festival and welcome young students to our University. At Hallam, we have a strong reputation for giving students the skills and experience of digital technologies. Whether it’s our in-house computer game design studio, animation, or robotics, Hallam is leading the way in Sheffield’s digital activities, and hopefully with Digifest we have helped to inspire future generations.”

Sheffield City Council and Sero Consulting coordinated the festival supported by Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield, The Sheffield College, UTC Sheffield, The Erasmus+ Programme and Sheffield Digital. Pupils took part in interactive activities, demonstrations and taster sessions including animation, coding, computing, digital media production, Lego robots, mobile apps development, Minecraft, Raspberry Pi and Vex Robotics, and an employer fair.

Jack Underwood, aged 13, from Westfield School, was named as the overall winner of the Code Make Win competition, which attracted more than 100 entries. He clinched £400 in prizes for winning his age category for games; the games category overall; and the competition overall. Jack has created an online role play game (2D RPG) called World of Creatures. Players have to raise their own creature, battle demons and make tough decisions along the way.

Jack said: “It was really exciting to find out that I had won the competition, and a complete surprise! In future, I’d definitely like to go into a career in games development.”

Local employers Benchmark Recruit, Can Studios, Lightworks Design, Sumo Digital, Selfix Technology, WANdisco, Yoko:10 and Aardvark Swift backed the event. Google Digital Garage, Apple education provider MCC, Plusnet and Discovery STEM Education were also involved.

The guest speakers were Professor Roger Eccleston, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement and Dean of Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University, Oliver Quinlan, Research Manager at Raspberry Pi and Mel Kanarek at Sheffield Digital.

Chris Barnes, Business Development Manager at Can Studios, commented: “As a Sheffield-grown business, we know the value of investing in local talent. Sheffield Digifest is a great example of what regional businesses can offer in terms of careers for young people in the city. Can Studios encourages the cultivation of local talent by partnering with local colleges, getting involved with community education projects and employing graduates through regional schemes. As well as the chance to showcase our work in elearning solutions and educational software, Sheffield Digifest gives us the opportunity to speak directly with young people to find out what their aspirations are and to help guide them in the first steps towards a career in digital technologies.”

 Louisa Harrison-Walker, Managing Director at Benchmark Recruit, added: “We work closely with IT and digital businesses and continue to witness huge growth in these sectors, plus an ever increasing demand for skills, so supporting initiatives such as Sheffield Digifest is vital to inspire future generations to pursue careers in these industries. Sheffield Digifest highlights the importance of educating children at an early age and encouraging them to be creative and experimental with technology, as well as showing them routes for progression and the cross section of roles available in the region.  Job roles emerge and change as quickly as the technology itself, in many cases the job titles of the future aren’t even known. Sheffield Digifest will work to inspire talented young people to shape the digital future by creating technologies that aren’t yet available.”

National research and local labour market reports have shown there is a shortage of people with digital skills to support the sector’s growth. These include software development, science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.  According to a report jointly commissioned by the University of Sheffield and Creative Sheffield, published last month, the city has capacity for growth.

A Snapshot of the Creative Digital Scene in Sheffield looked at dozens of companies across the Sheffield City Region working in digital design, video games, digital art and culture, digital media and content and digital making. The report found that digital companies in Sheffield are experiencing fast growth, with turnover increasing at 47% and the vast majority of companies expecting to recruit more workers over the next year. Visit https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/nr/creative-digital-report-tech-city-1.705754

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