Toby Parkins

Director and Co-Founder

Toby was an agile practitioner talking to a product owner from a global corporation at a barbecue when the Headforwards concept began to develop. Having started out on the internet in the early 90s, Toby founded UKNetWeb, a web development company and knew that he could deliver a better outsource software company. Toby and Craig co-founded Headforwards in 2011. Toby is also the founder of Agile on the Beach, President of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and a Director of Software Cornwall.

When we launched FibreHub last year, the plan was always to use our geographic position to forge closer links with Cornwall College and blur the lines between education and business.

I’m thrilled at how much progress has been made over the last 12 months; we’ve successfully created a new coursework element of the college’s Computing, Networking and Software Development Foundation Degree course, setting it out as a real business project.

Students on the course have attended a kick off meeting with a Headforwards development team to gain a clear understanding of the type of tech they might want to use. They have then developed their project in line with the (real) client’s requirements.

It’s as close as they can get to working on a genuine industry project without being employed by a software company and it’s the model we see working throughout the rest of this degree.

The plan is that over the next year we will change more of the course and involve other businesses so that the content becomes more diverse.

Headforwards founder Toby Parkins and Craig Girvan

I’m sure many degree courses are a little behind the times when it comes to the latest information and changes in the specific industry, but tech moves so incredibly quickly that it’s impossible for a programme to keep up. A degree course can take over 18 months to go through the design phase and be validated, by which time new technologies have been invented and probably new technologies off the back of those technologies. The result is that tech businesses are faced with a wealth of graduates who don’t have their finger on the pulse and have learned outdated practices.

What Headforwards is doing with Cornwall College shouldn’t be something worthy of a LinkedIn post – it should be the norm. We need to close the gap between education and business to ensure students are work-ready and organisations don’t struggle to recruit – especially in Cornwall.

Based on Tech South West figures from its 2022 report, the tech sector in Cornwall is going to more than double in five years. In GVA terms it will grow to about £1,258bn. That spells huge opportunity and we can already see this with the number of very well paid job opportunities increasing significantly in the Duchy.

The average software job in Cornwall pays double the average salary in Cornwall – the difference is around £26,000/£27,000 per year. That means that if a person works in Cornwall’s software sector until they are 60, in today’s money terms they will earn over £1m more than the average person in Cornwall.

The process of working with the college on its degree course means a dialogue has been created between our practitioners – the people developing software everyday, and the course leaders. Cornwall can now offer school leavers the chance to study locally and develop business relationships with potential employers before they even graduate.

At present, it’s just one module we’ve worked on with the college, but I am confident that by the time we welcome the next intake of students in September we will have made even more progress in creating what I believe will be the best, most relevant tech degree course in the UK.

Headforwards™ is a Registered Trade Mark of Headforwards Solutions Ltd.
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