School children wearing virtual reality headsets

Launching in Birmingham primary and secondary schools today, Birmingham Digital Futures aligns and builds upon the employers existing digital skills programmes - using their complimentary business objectives and significant networks to create a unique offering, with inclusive access for all communities across the city.

The aim of the programme is to encourage young people across Birmingham and beyond to improve their digital skills – helping to develop their careers and create expertise for West Midlands employers to tap into.

The demand for digital skills programmes continues to grow. Regionally, the 2019 Employer Skills Survey cited a lack of digital skills among applicants as an important cause of skills gaps. At the same time, the West Midlands has the fastest growing digital sector outside London and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has ambitious plans to double the industry’s economic output over the next decade.

At the heart of the Birmingham Digital Futures project is a desire to:

  • improve social mobility and diversify the pool of regional talent by improving the digital literacy of current and future workforces;
  • inspire, educate and raise awareness in communities (young people, teachers, parents, carers, and community influencers) about the possibilities of technology and enable them to think differently about careers involving technology, addressing any perceived barriers and misconceptions around such careers;
  • connect and convene the business community to enable collaboration around the theme of digital skills and inclusivity to drive economic growth for the region, combining efforts for greater reach, impact and clarity for beneficiaries.

Discussions are already underway with many other organisations from different sectors across the West Midlands to join the initiative to further enhance delivery and impact of inclusive digital skills programmes and collectively widen their reach.

The first phase of activity under Birmingham Digital Futures launches in schools in the city today and uses content from the Tech We Can educational programme. The resources consist of video lessons, lesson packs and role model videos aimed at children aged 8-14 and aim to inspire children to consider a future career in technology by highlighting the breadth of tech careers available, the diversity of people who work in technology, how technology is used in all walks of life, and how technology careers relate to children’s passions and hobbies.

The content is mapped to the National Curriculum covering 14 different tech topics such as ‘Tech for: Sport; Space; Food; Retail; Healthcare; and The Environment’. There are also a series of animated lessons aimed at children aged 5+ to educate and inspire children from an early age about technology and the people who work in tech-based roles.

‘Champions’ from industry partners will be available to visit schools in person or virtually and deliver the Tech We Can resources to the children to highlight practical examples of how students can start to think about a job in technology.

Alongside inclusive initiatives to support higher education access for high-potential students who may have been disadvantaged in their education so far, we are committed to regional growth and the skills agenda beyond higher education, offering coding bootcamps and a variety of public engagement and outreach activities. We’re delighted to work with PwC and Tech She Can to align and strengthen our capabilities for more impactful delivery of digital skills and to support inclusive, sustainable growth for our region alongside our offerings such as Degree Apprenticeships and MSc programmes designed with business to focus on sector-specific digital skills gaps.

Professor Tim Jones, Provost and Vice-Principal of the University of Birmingham

Matthew Hammond, Midlands Region Leader, PwC, adds: “We are committed to inspiring young people in the region in an increasingly digital world, showing them the breadth of technology careers and how technology is used in all walks of life in a more inclusive way. By combining forces with our anchor organisations in the region, we will increase the impact of our upskilling and technology programmes.

“Our technology degree apprenticeship programme with the University of Birmingham, which is now in its fourth year and the ‘Tech She Can’ and ‘Tech We Can’ initiatives, are just some of the many examples of how we are breaking down barriers to support social mobility so the next generation can build crucial skills and exciting technology-based careers.

“Our recent news of our new technology hub opening in Manchester, which will create 1000 technology focussed roles, also reflects the critical and growing role of new technologies to our business and our clients and underscores our commitment to regional growth and supporting regional rebalancing. We are looking forward to building on these successes with the University of Birmingham, Tech She Can and other organisations as they join with us to address the region’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s diversity.” 

Tech She Can is going from strength to strength and by becoming part of Birmingham Digital Futures we are expanding our reach further. It is inspiring children and young people by showing them the exciting opportunities provided by technology and the great careers it offers. At the same time, it is addressing the problem of skills shortages in technology.

Sheridan Ash MBE, Tech She Can Founder and co-CEO

The initial focus will be on developing programmes with schools to inspire and ignite passion across the digital skills agenda, but other sectors considered are social entrepreneurs, and youth unemployment, and working with underrepresented communities who do not have access to the same digital learning opportunities, as well as considering how employers can re-skill or up-skill their existing workforces.

If your organisation is interested in becoming part of the Birmingham Digital Futures initiative, or you would like to become a champion to help deliver content into local schools, please get in touch. Equally, we are keen to hear from Birmingham schools who would like to benefit from the project.