By Colin Young
How to cope with the demands of the digital age and support our thriving tech sector were the hot topics of conversation at the launch event for Tees Business.
Almost 100 people turned out for the Tees Business Leaders event featuring the launch of the autumn edition of the region’s business magazine at Wynyard Hall.
Scroll down to see our picture gallery of networking pictures
The latest Tees Business front cover ‘star’ Karl Pemberton, managing director of Active Chartered Financial Partners, was among the five panelists taking questions from host Dave Allan, co-editor of Tees Business.
They were joined on stage by Chris Bibby, director of Cornerstone Business Solutions, Jane Armitage, a partner at Jacksons Law, Lynsey Robinson, director of DigitalCity at Teesside University, and Dominic Lusardi, MD of Animmersion.
With key players in the digital sector available for interview and debate, the discussion centred round a growing industry in which the Tees region is leading the way.
Also discussed was the importance of embracing the digital age and the difficult balancing act some businesses face doing so.
Interestingly, two of the panel – Chris Bibby and Karl Pemberton – admitted they were still coming to terms with the industry but they will find a way to embrace it.
Karl said: “I admit I haven’t given it enough credit because I don’t understand it. I am probably a typical customer who doesn’t understand technology and it is too easy for people like me to dismiss it.
“But it is up to people like me to understand it better and then give it the credit it deserves. It might be more on our side and our job to upscale and accept as a new industry and sector within our region and I have to up my game in terms of knowledge.”
Jane Armitage added: “We have to be really proud of our digital sector and privileged that we have so much talent and skills in this area because it is something special and we need more collaboration between local business and the digital sector and we need to work together more.
“So when local businesses need a digital project, they have to think ‘can it be done in this area?’ Perhaps we need to join together on some really big projects so that we take those projects out of this area and promote the digital sector on Teesside.
“We have some very talented people in some things I cannot even half-understand but we should celebrate what we have, promote it widely, and then work with it to see what we can all do together.”
Although the digital industry is thriving in Teesside, and the university is providing employees for businesses such as Animmersion, who have an 85 per cent intake of former Teesside University students, the audience heard more has to be done to retain this workforce.
There are hundreds of digital businesses in the Tees Valley area, generating more than £700m per year.
And the subject of digital enterprise was particularly pertinent as Tees Business will be hosting the inaugural Tees Tech Awards at Wynyard in April 2020.
DigitalCity’s Lynsey Robinson explained that plans are already in place to ensure the region is seen as a long-term career destination, rather than a stepping stone.
She said: “We need to do more to encourage new serial entrepreneurship and look at the spin-out of products we are developing in certain sectors.
“It is encouraging to hear so much positivity towards the digital sector in the room but we have to do more. For example, the number of young people taking GCSE, A-level and ICT apprenticeship all went down across Teesside last year.
“We need people to understand that not only can you get a job in tech in Teesside but there is a career path and a future here.”