Portstewart business woman on a mission to address Northern Ireland's digital skills gap

Maggie Jones; CIM Associate Director of Qualifications and Partnerships and Maureen Wincott, CIM Learning Partnership Manager congratulates Debbie Rymer Director SAND Marketing Academy on the expansion of her CIM Accredited Study Centre which now offers CIM courses and qualifications in Newry, Mourne and Down, Dundalk and the Causeway Coast and Glens region
Maggie Jones; CIM Associate Director of Qualifications and Partnerships and Maureen Wincott, CIM Learning Partnership Manager congratulates Debbie Rymer Director SAND Marketing Academy on the expansion of her CIM Accredited Study Centre which now offers CIM courses and qualifications in Newry, Mourne and Down, Dundalk and the Causeway Coast and Glens region
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Debbie Rymer reveals why all employers should address digital skills shortages

During Entrepreneurship Week we caught up with Portstewart business woman Debbie Rymer, founder of the SAND Marketing Academy to find out why all employers should address digital skills shortages as a matter of priority.

Commenting on recent research from Tech Nation and Ireland’s Digital Skills Report Debbie explained:

“Northern Ireland is experiencing a much-welcomed digital economic boom, which is fantastic but this regional growth is being held back by a shortage of digital skills. The pace of change has sped up so drastically with the arrival of big data, social media, marketing automation platforms and advanced campaign monitoring tools that organisations struggle to keep up and this a race that we cannot afford to lose.

“While online spend is up 54 per cent year-on-year, we’re still losing a sizeable chunk (60 per cent) to overseas competitors and who can predict what impact March 2019 will have on those figures.”

Worryingly Ireland’s Digital Skills Report found that eight out of 10 marketers failed to achieve entry-level competency and that senior marketers were found to be 26 per cent less knowledgeable than their entry-level counterparts.

This skills gap is being further exacerbated by new digital businesses start-ups who are hiring existing experienced staff from other established companies, putting them under tremendous pressure. ''It’s therefore safe to say that a digital talent strategy is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a business imperative,'' Debbie added.

Debbie suggests that while the government certainly has a role to play in helping upskill the workforce, businesses have potentially one of the biggest roles of all “equipping their workforces with the right skills and opportunities to hone them.”

''The bottom line is that we need to take that skills gap seriously. It’s up to all of us to encourage new and existing workers to develop their skills and ensure access to education and learning opportunities to create a culture of learning. Only by doing this, will we begin to bridge the gap.

“For the past three I have worked tirelessly with businesses, education institutions, local government and business leaders to understand how we can work collectively to train people for jobs in the digital economy. “

In 2017 Debbie set up SAND Marketing Academy, a CIM Accredited Study Centre and have just this month has become Northern Ireland’s exclusive SOSTAC® Certified Training Company.

“I’ve invested heavily in securing licenses to deliver these internationally recognised and regulated professional marketing qualifications and with help from Causeway Coast and Glens Enterprise Fund we are about to launch an e-learning platform that will offer programmes to allow learners to upskill whenever and wherever it suits them. Through our academy we are giving people the opportunity to arm themselves with highly sought-after marketing and digital marketing skills. Those that are essential in driving the Northern Ireland economy forwards.”

''I don’t know what March 2019 will bring but I do know that I am doing all I can to be entrepreneurial and to help organisations to market themselves in a fast paced digital world.''