Breaking down barriers to open up the future of the tech sector
While the tech sector continues to boom, the race for skilled digital talent remains a prominent issue for many businesses. Getting the right people for the right jobs is a challenge keeping many business leaders up at night, and for those organisations looking to plan and proof for the long term, engaging the interest of future talent in the career opportunities in tech must be an absolute business priority.
With so many organisations facing the same or similar challenges, an effective way to address this is to come together to tackle the issue with collective impact - and at Ahead Partnership, this is an agenda we’re already driving forward through our careers and skills initiatives in the digital and technology sector.
Helping businesses to focus on the ‘S’ in ‘ESG’ (Environmental, Social and Governance) in particular, we work with private and public sector digital employers on our Growing Talent Digital programmes in regions across the UK to engage with underrepresented groups in the sector and inspire young talent to pursue rewarding careers in which they have the potential to succeed. Goldman Sachs, the John Lewis Partnership Community Investment Fund, Leeds City Council, BJSS, Netcompany, Infinity Works, And Digital and Intercity Technology are among the supporters and funders that have been involved in this exciting work over the last 12 months.
Our Growing Talent Digital programmes are a great example of how digital employers from across diverse sectors – from transport to gaming to finance – are putting this into practice. With activities taking place in areas from Aberdeen to Ashford in Kent, the initiative sees young people engage in virtual workshops and Q&As and hear from professionals already in the industry. Much of this work is grounded in ‘real life’ briefs to give young people a tangible understanding of what working in the sector means and just how different the roles can be - from designing apps, to imagining the cars of the future and exploring the role of the tech sector in waste management.
Our Growing Talent programmes directly target young people that do not currently see their place in these jobs and are available to state schools, focused on those with the highest proportion of students on Free School Meals and from a diverse range of races, cultures and backgrounds.
One area we have particularly focused on in recent years is tackling the gender imbalance in the tech sector – a longstanding issue which many organisations are keen to address. Providing young women with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with female professionals already succeeding in the industry, this year we’ve already delivered #GirlTechWM and #GirlTechLeeds.
A popular activity, GirlTech brings together committed digital sector employers, enabling young women to have open conversations about their future careers, develop confidence to pursue pathways and form strong industry connections from an early stage – prior to choosing their GCSE subject options. In turn, this work supports sector-wide efforts to break down barriers of perception, prejudice and unconscious bias in the sector, improve diversity and promote social mobility.
All of this work isn’t just a ‘nice to have’; the impact it can have on students is proven. For example an online Growing Talent Digital careers festival that took place in January saw 97% of students feedback that the activity had increased their understanding of working in the digital sector. And following our March #GirlTechLeeds event, 100% of the female students say they understand what skills the need to get into digital.
Through this work, we’re already seeing organisations take responsibility for the future of their workforce and for the greater good of the sector – because for a sector like tech to thrive, diversity of thought is pivotal. The tech sector is beginning to realise the scale of its potential; now is the time to ensure everyone has the opportunity to reap its rewards.