Liverpool is a city bursting at the seams with creativity.

Not only are we a city that is pioneering in technology, the World Capital City of Pop and the home of more museums than anywhere outside of London, it's imperative that our talent remains here. 

Bridging the gap between education and industry and championing local talent in the digital industry, we speak to the founder of OH - the platform that is connecting fresh talent with digital business in Liverpool.

In 2014, Robyn was studying a BTEC Fashion in college and it was here when she realised education wasn’t what she wanted it to be. She went there to learn and for her creativity to be nurtured, but 6 months into the course she made the decision to drop out. A decision that some might consider detrimental if you’re wanting to pursue a successful career - for Robyn it felt like the most natural and productive step forward for her to take.

“It felt as though my creativity was being stifled and it wasn’t long before I realised Fashion wasn’t really what I wanted to do as a career. One thing I realised during my time there is that there are ways of learning that suits different people, the education system had its one approach and it wasn’t suitable for me. Through conversations with other creatives, I realised they felt this way too. More and more people were looking for a more hands-on experience, ‘learning by doing’.”

You could argue that’s why opportunities like internships and placements exist, but it was through her research of what the creative landscape looked like in Liverpool she realised the type of opportunities that would help people who wanted to enter the industry were very limited. Internships were predominantly in London, most of which were unpaid. Like for a lot of people, Robyn wasn’t in a financial position to apply for those opportunities nor did she want to move out of the city when Liverpool itself had a thriving creative and digital industry.

Here is where she realised there were a lot of gaps that were being left unfilled. The gap between education and industry was staggering - there was little connection between what was being taught in formal education to what the digital industry was asking for from emerging talent. The gap within opportunities that were available for people starting of their careers was also evident, youth unemployment was high, and more and more school leavers/graduates were in jobs which had nothing to do with their areas of qualification. There was even a gap in employers awareness into what it meant to take on a young person through the likes of apprenticeships and internships.

What made you decide to start OH?

Things are happening in the Skyline 🌃 #OHCatalyst

A post shared by OH (@ohthisway) on

Like for a lot of people, these types of ventures are born out of frustration and it was no different for OH. Robyn recognised that something needed to be done, not just for those who were entering the industry but for businesses who were also experiencing difficulties. She’d had a number of conversations with businesses in the industry who expressed deep concerns when it came to finding talent with the right skill sets for the roles that they were recruiting for. Some feeling disheartened because they didn’t know how to reach talent in the city and were beginning to look elsewhere to fill those roles.

It brought up a number of questions for Robyn which she was determined to find answers to. It dawned on her that if she didn’t step up and do it, the problems and issues would only get worse. So in 2015, she set up what was then Innovators Hub, now OH as a platform for her to research and begin to address the issue of the skills and opportunity gap that creatives and the industry kept coming up against.

What was the initial aim of OH?

The initial aim of OH was to bridge the gap between education and industry, by working with businesses to provide more inclusive opportunities, such as paid internships and junior-level roles for creatives to start their career in the industry. Robyn believed that it would be these types of opportunities that would not only help to increase skill sets, but will also retain and attract more talent to the city.

How does OH work? What is the goal? 

Over the years, the idea has evolved from a sole-trader style business to be a CIC with a commitment to supporting the creative community. As much as OH are passionate about getting people into careers that fulfil them creatively, they’re also on a mission to support untapped talent who are choosing alternative routes and are looking outside of universities and colleges to be educated.

So naturally, OH has become a leading alternative education company that delivers industry-led training programmes, masterclasses and events which equip and inspire the next generation of creatives. Their initiatives include interactive workshops, talks by industry leaders, open studios and social gatherings in the city’s creative hubs.

Outside of their work that they do on the ground, they’ve also been working with SB Studio on their new industry focused platform which they launched earlier this month, The platform has been designed to further bridge the gap by connecting their community of creatives with industry through alternative education programmes, job opportunities, networks and stories that will inspire the quest to pursuing a career in the industry.

The Good Stuff

Their successes as an organisation include piloting their first training programme, Catalyst, in January last year. They collaborated with over 40 businesses to design and deliver the 10 day programme and ensured the learning experience for their students was one where personal and professional development was at the forefront.

The first cohort of Catalyst students went on to securing full-time employment, paid internships and freelance gigs. After its initial success and seeing there’s clear demand for learning experiences such as Catalyst, OH will be running the programme annually and will continue to evolve the content of the 10 day to stay aligned with the needs of the industry.

2018 will be a big year for OH, after announcing the launch of their new platform, they also announced that ustwo, a global tech company with bases in London, Malmo, Sydney and New York, have become a patron of theirs. With this level of support, they will be able to deliver more initiatives that positively impact the creative community and they’ll also be able to expand their team - taking it from one to a team of two!

How can you get involved?

Part of a bigger picture 💡#ohcatalyst

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You can stay updated with OH by following them on Twitter and Instagram. They also send out monthly newsletter packed with industry stories, opportunities and events which you can sign up to on their website.

OH are frequently looking for new businesses to join them on their mission. If you and your team are interested in being involved and supporting initiatives such as Catalyst, you can get in touch with them here.