Nurturing digital talent
LUCY KIRBY is as passionate about digital as she is about her island home.
In her role as director of the Digital Greenhouse, she leads a team of equally enthusiastic individuals in supporting the growth and development of digital entrepreneurs, businesses and the wider community with a range of services including mentoring, training and workshops as well as a co-working space in the heart of St Peter Port. With today’s status quo now a constant pace of change, it’s a vital resource that is helping islanders find a way through the challenges they face at work, both as businesses and as individuals, as Jo Meerveld finds out
‘We know with absolute certainty that we are not going to solve tomorrow’s problems with the same tools as today,’ explains Lucy.
‘So we need to consider throwing away the rulebook. We want to open people’s eyes to the art of the possible. By no means do we have all the answers, but we do know that there are some fantastic people on island, and people are finding that we can connect and stimulate that discussion. And that’s ultimately for me is what will create growth through our economy.
‘What we’ve noticed coming through Covid and I think predicting coming out the other side is much greater diversity. We are now starting to hear from the retail sector, we’re starting to hear from hospitality. During the Covid situation we had a number of people contact us saying, how do I digitise my business?’
Since taking up her position at the Digital Greenhouse two and a half years ago, Lucy has identified the need to develop it from being simply a co-working space towards a programme of strategic partnerships. The agenda that the team have been pushing forwards since then has been one of upskilling people to form lasting and impactful partnerships that integrate the programme sponsors and enables them to track individuals through programmes and actually see where people are going and see the impact of the work they are doing.
Lucy, a former teacher, has a specialist interest in supporting those young people who are coming back to the island after university.
‘We’re now severalfour years into three years into running our digital internship programme in the summer. We take young people who are either just finishing school or who are currently at university and place them locally, so that they can see first-hand the innovation that’s happening here on the island. A lot of our young people go to university and think that accounting is the only option on Guernsey, so they don’t necessarily think of coming back home to work. So we are really thinking about how we join the dots up so we inspire young people to think about digital pathways. We’re doing work out in the primary schools, through into secondary, so that actually then that itself feeds through to the business growth that we need.
‘For us it’s about creating these pockets of digital leadership. We’re just launching our digital apprenticeship programme, which is a fully online programme so very different to the current year apprenticeships on offer around the island, for a very different market. That is aimed at those in entry-level positions at work or a new startup or perhaps an existing employee in data analytics. The aim is to upskill individuals within businesses in an area that we know is a real growth area, and is going to be one of the most sought-after areas within the next 18 months. We are putting projects in place with the aim of supporting business leaders – encouraging them to open their eyes to the art of the possible, to explore how technology can be used moving forwards and then at the same time ensuring that the people on the ground have got the right skill sets.’
The team have been working hard to ensure that there is virtual access to many of their resources.
‘Hive learning is a really good example of that,’ says Lucy. ‘It’s in their own time, so whenever they’re ready they can jump in and do some learning time. We’re moving into podcasts, or video because actually the model of bringing everyone into one room to have a training session, when each person’s need is so bespoke, is not sustainable but the flip side of that is looking at how we use technology to really personalise the experience for the individual.’
It is clear that Lucy believes passionately in the work that the Greenhouse team are doing and I ask her what keeps her motivated.
‘Guernsey is a unique and an inspiring place to be – because of our size and our scale, we have the opportunity to enact change and see the impact that we are having. We definitely punch above our weight in so many areas and there is so much opportunity. What keeps me going is seeing first hand the outcomes of what we’re doing. Bumping into people that we’ve worked with on programmes, whether that be students on internship programmes, or business leaders or people who’ve started their new business – then finding out from them six months later where they’ve gone and what they’ve been able to do.
‘That drives me to keep doing what we’re doing.’