From being part of the BBC Bitesize Schools Tour to hosting students from The Northern School of Art and spreading positivity at Refresh Teesside, we’ve been involved in a flurry of activity over the past couple of months; all with the aim of inspiring and empowering the next generation of creative talent to not only remain in the Tees Valley, but to flourish and grow. And as creative and digital businesses such as ourselves continue to expand, we believe it’s one of our major responsibilities to raise awareness of the opportunities available in our region.
Back at the start of January, our MD Mark, was announced as Chairman of the High Tide Foundation, taking over from founding Chairman, David Robinson MBE. Mark has been involved in High Tide since its inception in 2012, and has also been a trustee for the past four years. The foundation connects business and education, helping to increase awareness of career opportunities and raise aspirations for young people in the Tees Valley.
Mark said: “Helping to provide opportunities and raise young people’s aspirations is something very close to my heart, and something the team at Better take very seriously.
“We have an ambitious plan to increase the number of programmes we deliver which will align with the new careers initiative launched by the Tees Valley Combined Authority this year. We’ll be building programmes across a more diverse range of business sectors, creating further opportunities for rich and rewarding work experience, from accountancy to animation and mechanics to digital marketing.”
At the end of the month, we took to schools across the region as part of the BBC Bitesize Schools Tour. The tour provided inspiring insight into the creative industries in the North East, while highlighting career opportunities and potential routes into the sector. Such events are crucial to getting the message about the Tees Valley’s blossoming creative and digital cluster out to students, schools, teachers and parents – many of who are unaware of the prominence of the sector and the opportunities that exist.
Skills development and retention is currently a key challenge facing many sectors across the region, with creative and digital being no different. And despite the impressive recent growth of the sector in the Tees Valley, when you ask many local students where such jobs are, their first answer is still likely to be the UK’s major cities. This is an outdated myth, and one we actively want to dispel and put right.
January also saw the return of Refresh Teesside, bringing together the digital, creative and tech communities for talks, talent promotion, networking and pizza! We were privileged to be invited to speak at the launch event and took the opportunity to talk about Mark’s recent appointment as High Tide chairman, as well as the foundation’s focus on “upping the game” when it comes to inspiring the region and sector’s future workforce. After a two-year hiatus we’re looking forward to seeing what Refresh Teesside have in store for 2019!
It was then our turn to welcome graphic design students from The Northern School of Art into the studio, with a visit and tour of the Better HQ. Students found out more about agency life and our brand building process, before hearing about creative careers and the booming creative sector in the Tees Valley.
Forging links and closer relationships between colleges and universities is a key part of our recruitment strategy, allowing raw creative talent to be nurtured, developed and retained directly here in the North East. We’ve already seen the benefits such opportunities can bring for both ourselves and talented individuals, with one of our designers, Matthew, originally joining the team as an intern following his graduation from The Northern School of Art.
This week also marks National Apprenticeship Week, aligning with our wider commitment to recruit and grow young talent in our region. As with our internship programme, apprenticeships form a crucial part of our recruitment process. The opportunity to nurture and mould creative and digital talent is unique, as is the chance to hear their fresh opinions and innovative ideas. We currently have one apprentice in our team, with Shane hoping to follow in the footsteps of web designer Nathan, in going from school to apprentice to fully-fledged web designer.
To cap off a busy few months, we’ve also heard the exciting news of the latest developments for the Boho zone, with a £20m plan for new offices announced to meet increased demand. As Middlesbrough’s digital sector continues to contribute more than £300m a year to the economy and employ around 1,000 people, more space is required for start-ups and those who have helped spark the region’s digital growth.
Located at the heart of this cluster, we know some of the industry-leading work that takes place just a few hundred yards from the area’s former industrial heartland. But in 2019, the region that once built some of the world’s most recognisable structures is now more likely to be building brands, creating video games and producing world-class video content. And with this recent news, combined with the nurturing, development and retention of the region’s best creative talent, the Tees Valley’s creative and digital hub is set to continue its growth.