The first ever digital conference has been held in Maidstone in a bid to highlight the career opportunities in the sector to students and teachers

Around 200 students and teachers from across Kent have attended a one-day digital conference in Maidstone hosted by Reflect Digital.

Aspiration Digital was held at Maidstone Girls Grammar School (MGGS) on Friday (2nd of November) in a bid to inspire and educate students and teachers about the career opportunities in the digital industry.

It follows the success of the student digital workshops Reflect Digital held over the summer holidays.

Earlier this year, an investigation found there to be a lack of information explaining the diverse opportunities of a career in the digital sector, particularly marketing.

51% of 8,405 young people in the UK aged 18-24 said that digital marketing was 'never' or 'hardly ever' mentioned at their school, with just 1% reporting that it was talked about 'a lot' during their school days.

In light of this, Reflect Digital wanted to tackle the so called 'recruitment crisis' by informing students about what jobs there are in the digital world including; marketing, design, development, search engine optimisation (SEO) and account management.

A number of guest speakers from Reflect Digital and several other Kent-based agencies, including Pillory Barn and Firemind spoke to students and teachers on the day.

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald was also in attendance.

Becky Simms, CEO at Reflect Digital, said: "Having worked with a number of schools and universities over the last 7 years while running Reflect Digital I've noticed a real lack of digital career knowledge when talking to students.

"Although students are using the internet, social media and technology every day, they are not aware of the huge plethora of career opportunities.

"The aim of this event was to educate sixth form students about the varying career paths, the types of roles, the ways to get into industry and more than anything to inspire them with some of our industry's best speakers.

"The students were able to hear from a real variety of speakers, from startup directors to in-house professionals.

"The energy from the students, teachers and speakers at Aspiration Digital was phenomenal.

"The day was filled with so much digital industry insight from some of the leaders in our field, we have already had feedback from students stating it was the best careers event they have ever attended.

"True testament to the success is that we have already seen students taking action, over the weekend a number of students have created LinkedIn profiles and connected with me."

Speaking about the so called 'recruitment crisis', Becky adds: "We are not at crisis stage, but I am on a mission to help protect our industry by helping inspire students to really think about the career opportunity the digital sector provides and to plan their route.

"I think schools and businesses need to work together more. Schools can't keep on top of ever changing industries like ours on their own, they need support from businesses who know their craft to inspire students.

"Who better to inspire students than successful professionals? The best place to start is by talking to their alumni.

"I've been in this sector for 10 years now and it is always changing, and always will be. Not only has our sector changed but workplaces in general have changed and will continue to do so."

Neil Walker, Head of Business, ICT, Computing and Economics at Maidstone Girls Grammar School said: " The idea for the event was something original which we had not been involved with before.

"We always are excited to work with local businesses to deliver events which will inspire and inform our students.

"I don't believe that young people know the wide and varied range of jobs that are available within the digital world.

"I think there could be a great deal more information provided about all the different paths and careers that are possible both now and in the future.

"Over the past 5 years we have worked really hard to inspire our students to study Computing and now a third of our girls choose to study GCSE Computing and we have increasing numbers electing to study at A-level.

"The best way is to boost numbers into the industry is to give them role models.

"Seeing older students choosing to study Computing and by meeting women who can share stories about being successful in a technology career really does inspire and change their views and ambitions."

Helen Grant Member of Parliament for Maidstone and the Weald said: "The digital sector is, without doubt, our future.

"It is so true that the careers which so many of these young people will pursue may not even exist yet and it is therefore crucial that they are equipped with digital skills they need to adapt and succeed.

"This Aspiration Digital Event was diverse and utterly captivating and it is great to see local businesses and schools coming together to inspire our young people to pursue a digital career."