SPARK Skills Fest attracts tech talent in the hundreds

Highlights of the South West's first ever independent recruitment event dedicated to the region's booming tech and digital cluster
2nd December 2016

Yesterday, hundreds of the next generation of robotics engineers, games developers, coders and entrepreneurs descended on Bristol’s the Watershed, for the first ever SPARK Skills Festival.

The day-long event invited some of Bristol, Bath and the South West’s most innovative companies seeking students, graduates and experienced developers to help take their businesses to the next level.

“The SPARK Skills Fest was by far the best networking and hiring event I have been to in the past few years”

 

As well as there being 200 jobs on offer across over 40 local companies, the Skills Festival was also a spectacular showcase for some of the region’s most innovative tech and included competitions to win impressive prizes in addition to a series of inspiring talks on how to catapult your career in a whole range of roles in digital and tech.

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Competition winners: Ashton Clapp and Steven Borrie, winners of CreditCall and
JustEAT‘s Amazon Dots at SPARK Skills Fest

 

Ashton Clapp (pictured above left), attendee, University of Bath graduate and winner of an Amazon Dot at JustEAT’s skills festival competition, tells us: “The SPARK Skills Fest was by far the best networking and hiring event I have been to in the past few years. The local companies there offered an abundance of opportunities to students looking to work with cutting-edge technology.”

actual-experience-frisbees-at-spark-skills-gestFestival sponsor and exhibitor Actual Experience (pictured right) was just as much in on the action when it came to quirky competitions, offering the latest Raspberry Pi as a prize for posting the wackiest photo on Twitter with one of their free frisbees. Needless to say, they were also a great hit with attendees and exhibitors alike.

VR, AR and 360 selfies

Of course, tech is no fun unless you get to have a go yourself and the demo area of SPARK Skills Fest was a huge hit with all attendees.

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Augmented reality: a student tries out Microsoft’s HoloLens headset at JustEAT’s stand

 

Amidst the crowds were chances to test out a Microsoft HoloLens AR headset from JustEAT, a HTC Vive VR headset from game development studio PlayWest, Ultrahaptics’ amazing haptic feedback technology that allows you to touch and feel objects in thin air and VRgo‘s unique VR chair remote that allows users to move around virtual worlds by leaning and pivoting.

Not to mention, OMGrenegade‘s fabulous 360 selfie device that got everyone – including TechSPARK’s own editorial team – posing on a platform in a state of giggles. Check out TechSPARK Editor Jamie Middleton’s 360 selfie below.

 

 

The talks also proved to be extremely popular, with attendees packing out cinema 3 from the start of the day ready to hear about startup adventures, chatbots and more.

“We had some great conversations with students, graduates and other digital and tech people who came over to chat”

 

Ashton adds: “I learned a lot from the JustEAT talk about how quickly chatbot technology is advancing, and how they were leveraging that to offer more personal interactions with their customers. I don’t know how I could have heard from someone with that degree of experience anywhere else.”

 

Talks were diverse and cut across many of those big questions we all have when we’re thinking of starting a new career. Rosie Bennett, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Bath Innovation Centre and Mentor at SETsquared, hosted a fascinating panel at the end of the day to highlight some of the benefits of working for different sizes of company from startup to corporate.

“If Mayden’s swimming pool or OVO’s onsite gym, 3 storey slide and free fruit, aren’t enough to get the audience to send in their CVs than I’m not sure what it’s going to take”

 

She says:  “It was great to be part of a lively panel that gave some really valuable insight into how to perform well at an interview as well as great insider info on team structures, management and recruitment.

“All the panelists were representing fantastic growth companies with big numbers to hit in terms of bringing on new talent, which led to a lively debate and a not too subtle display of competition about employee ‘perks’. If Mayden‘s swimming pool or OVO‘s onsite gym, 3-storey slide and free fruit aren’t enough to get the audience to send in their CVs than I’m not sure what it’s going to take!”

A pool of talent

As well as providing a great opportunity for students to find out about the amazing opportunities available in tech and digital in the South West, SPARK Skills Fest enabled local companies to reach out to talented individuals. Mike Harley, a Principal Recruiter in development and technology at local tech recruitment specialists, ADLIB, exhibited at the SPARK Skills Fest.

“It’s fantastic that TechSPARK has been able to showcase some of the region’s best emerging talent to the amazing growing digital companies in the city”

 

 

adlib-at-spark-skills-festHe says: “The speakers and panels were fantastic and we had some great conversations with students, graduates and other digital and tech people who came over to chat.  It was exciting to see so much innovation under one roof and it was a superb showcase of some of the region’s most cutting edge businesses, who it would appear are growing at real pace.”

Ben Shorrock, Managing Director at TechSPARK and co-organiser of SPARK Skills Festival adds: “It’s fantastic that TechSPARK has been able to showcase some of the region’s best emerging talent to the amazing growing digital companies in the city.

“If we want to keep our crown as the UK’s only fast growing and globally significant tech cluster we need to make sure we have a strong pipeline of the best people moving into our companies.”

Thanks to Ashton, Mike and Rosie for chatting to us about their experience at SPARK Skills Festival, to sponsors JustEAT and Actual Experience and to all the other exhibitors whose support helped to make the day such a great success.

To stay up to date with TechSPARK’s events and all other tech & digital events in the South West, check out our events calendar or follow us on Twitter: @TechSPARKuk.

And, if you’re not already, you should definitely join the TechSPARK mailing list for regular highlights of news, events and jobs in the region.