We talk to our Talent Development Manager Erin about our program of student events and how ZeroLight is tackling the tech skills shortage.

Last week ZeroLight hosted its annual event for students interested in tech careers. In conjunction with the NE1Can project, we invited 50 plus young people aged between 11 - 14 to the studio to get an insight into what its like to work in the digital technology field, giving them demonstrations in virtual and augmented reality as well as talks from our Software Engineering and Art teams about how to break into the industry.

A big focus in my introductory talk was the prevalence of technology in our everyday lives and trying to encourage the students to consider if we're using so much technology on a daily and even hourly basis, what kind of roles are involved in creating this and how exciting it is to be part of it. Talking about social media in particular, including how many daily active users the like of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat attract as well as how many individuals each of these companies employ, certainly peaked the interest of the students and got them talking about how great it would be to work for one of these companies, creating content that is used throughout the world.

As Talent Development Manager, a big part of my role is organising student events to attract the next generation of technical talent to ZeroLight. Traditionally we've involved university students in this, those on the brink of graduating who are almost ready to join the world of work. Last year, with the realities of Brexit and the ever-growing skills gap looming, we made the decision to also reach out to younger age groups and include schools and colleges in our student events roster.

It's more important than ever to encourage as many young people as possible to consider working in the field of technology, particularly within coding - where the skills shortage is at its highest. During my talk last week, I mentioned to the students that technical roles are now a feature of almost every business area from the NHS to banking to construction and that learning to code now, will almost certainly result in a wealth of opportunities opening up in future for them.

Organising and hosting events like this one takes time and resources, and there are no immediate gains for ZeroLight. However, it's the long-term benefit of talking to young people and getting them excited about technology that holds the most weight for us, and something we would encourage other tech companies to get involved in. The more students can get hands on with things like VR and participate in coding challenges, visit studios and see tech in action - the more enthusiastic young talent we'll eventually see coming back for interviews in 5 to 10 years' time.

Tackling the skills shortage is certainly a big task and it's one that will only be overcome if all the key stakeholders - tech employers, schools and government - pull together in the same direction and produce a cohesive plan to get more students coding. Schools themselves have the biggest responsibility to introduce effective Computer Science teaching that has a focus on real-world outputs, so students really understand how creating lines of code links to making a website, an app or a computer game. As an employer, ZeroLight can certainly help reinforce this with events and visits, but the real work starts within schools - from upskilling teachers to ensure they have the right level of experience, to delivering an effective and inspiring curriculum that gets young people excited about the vast number of opportunities open to them in the technology industry.