From the industrial to the technological revolution; how Bolton is embracing the digital transformation was the topic of discussion at Wednesday’s BusinessCloud breakfast event at the University.

Hosted by the magazine’s editor, Chris Maguire, nine panellists from both public and private sectors debated the widening skills gap and what Bolton can do to preserve its talent from moving to nearby Manchester.

They also discussed what skills and qualities today’s students require, and the role that apprenticeships can play.

Amongst the panel were two members of staff from the University of Bolton; Head of Creative Technologies, Simon Wiggins and Professor of Media, Aaqil Ahmed.

‘You don’t come to University to get a piece of paper,’ said Aaqil Ahmed.

‘You go to University to learn a particular set of skills. You’ve got to build contacts, be able to communicate and understand how to network. You never stop learning and you’re always going to be on a journey.

‘Industry will change around you and you’ve got to adapt to that kind of change. If you can’t change you will become a dinosaur.’

Simon Wiggins also touched on the pace at which technology changes and the need to adapt.

‘‘What we try to do at the University, as much as we can, is mimic industry needs. It allows students to go out with ‘oven-ready’ skills so they understand how to work through a process and how to integrate with a team.

‘‘Tech skills are continuously changing and we have to keep up with them. We know that, within the University, we have to react much quicker than we have had to in the past. Courses are three years long but technology changes incredibly quickly so we embed into the courses modules where we can leave them open to see what the technology needs and keep up. It’s more about ‘what is coming next’ and how we feed that into the course.

‘‘You also have to build-in the soft skills. Students can be ‘technology ready’, but they also have to be ‘industry ready’.’’

A key element of the University’s Teaching Intensive, Research Informed strategy is that students study in an environment that reflects the area of industry which they will enter.

Other panellists included Stephen Young, Director of Place at Bolton Council; Matt Carr, Director of Carrs Pasties; Kirsty Styles, Head of Talent and Skills at Tech North and Joy Sewart, Head of Skills Development at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

They touched on a range of issues including new legislation around apprenticeships, the workforce shortages in the digital sector and the importance of staff retention.

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