From education to employment

Sunderland tech firm receives national award nomination

A TECH business that could hold the key to addressing national skills shortages has received industry recognition for its cutting-edge work.

GoCareer, a product from Sunderland software business Geek Talent, that has been developed by young people for young people, has made it to the final of a prestigious industry awards.  The new app, which was designed and built in collaboration with students from Gateshead College and New College Durham, is shortlisted as ‘Best Start Up’ in the 2017 Big Chip Awards, an event celebrating the best of the Northern tech scene, from the Scottish borders right down to Derbyshire.

GoCareer is a platform that uses the real experiences and reviews of students to help school leavers make decisions about where they will go on to study.  Students can seek out colleges that are closest to them, and read reviews left by students, assessing the courses they’re interested in, the quality of teaching, college facilities, student life and support services, and a host of other criteria. 

Dominic Murphy, managing director at Geek Talent, based in Sunderland Software Centre, said: “It’s such an honour to be shortlisted for a Big Chip award and is testament to the work of the young people we trained last summer, to help develop this platform. 

“This is a platform that could really transform the advice and guidance young people receive when making decisions about their education.  The opportunity to equip them with peer-led insight means that they can make more informed decisions, and of course, it provides a great marketing opportunity for our region’s colleges and universities that are providing such high standards of education and vibrant learning environments.”

Now in its 19th year, the Big Chip Awards – which will be held on Thursday, June 15 at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel – are the largest digital awards outside of London and have established themselves as a must-attend event for digital businesses across the North.

Dominic added: “The tech industry in the North, and in Sunderland, is growing rapidly.  Sunderland has the second fastest growing digital turnover behind London.  There is a willingness here to collaborate and work together to solve challenges.  People outside of the region are becoming receptive to what we’re doing here and I think we’re making a name for ourselves in this part of the world.”

GoCareer was developed last summer by a collective of students that were trained up in coding by the Geek Talent team.  The opportunity came about through a 12-week ‘bootcamp’ programme, developed jointly by Geek Talent, Gateshead College and New College Durham, which allowed the students to work on a real-life project mentored by experienced industry professionals. 

One of the students, Brendan Drury from Gateshead College, said: “It was fantastic to be involved in developing a cutting-edge app that will be a valuable resource for school leavers. I’m grateful to the college for giving me the opportunity to work with the Geek Talent team on this exciting project. It has given me valuable industry experience and the chance to apply my classroom learning in the workplace.”

Students from New College Durham also got on board.

Chris Toon, assistant principal of Gateshead College, said: “This initiative enabled the students to showcase their entrepreneurial talent in a well-respected company and the award nomination is testament to their sterling efforts. We take an industry-driven approach to workforce development and our training programmes are always geared to helping companies widen their skills base and become more innovative, productive and competitive.

Entries in the Big Chip Awards will be judged by a panel including the BBC’s Bill Thompson, Herb Kim from Tech North, Alistair Cole from The Engine Group, and Caroline Gorski, Head of IoT at Digital Catapult, led by Professor Malcolm Garrett RDI.

Billy Webber, chief operating officer at Sunderland Software City, said: “The work of Geek Talent in pulling together this project, that not only helped college students during the development process, but that will become an invaluable tool for young people the length and breadth of the country, is to be commended. 

“I wish them the very best of luck in these awards.”

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