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How we helped reduce barriers to employment with Get DigitALL

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When considering a pilot project for the JP Morgan Chase Foundation almost two years ago, working with the digital/tech sector in Edinburgh made sense, writes Craig Dutton.

The sector was booming – the City of Edinburgh saw the fifth highest growth in digital jobs across the UK’s tech clusters between 2010 and 2014 with more than 21,300 people estimated to work in digital tech in Edinburgh.

A pilot which would help those from disadvantaged backgrounds was required, so Get DigitALL was born.

Providing new opportunities

Get DigitALL looked to work with young people with barriers to employment, including those with a disability, with a particular focus on those on the autistic spectrum.

The aim of the project was to close the digital skills gap and prepare them to take advantage of the emerging jobs within the digital sector. To do this, the Council partnered with Cre8te Opportunities, CodeClan and Into Work to deliver a programme of support across an 18-month period.

The programme featured two main project areas – digital up-skilling for young people without a positive destination (Cre8te Opportunities) and providing places on CodeClan’s 16-week course for young people on the autistic spectrum (CodeClan and Into Work).

Cre8te’s digital upskilling course focused on those leaving school with little or no qualifications, but a passion for computing such as gaming or building hardware. They worked with groups of young people over a course of approximately three months, supporting them through the CISCO IT Essentials course.

Lesley Morrison, manager of Cre8te’s Digital Skills Academy said, “The young people we have worked with are those who would otherwise have missed out. We have developed their technical skills and work skills and seen them find focus and direction. They can offer so much to employers – like the chance to develop and shape future employees.”

A total of 24 students were supported by Cre8te, with many going on to complete work placements or move on to college.

Supporting the learning process

CodeClan worked with students who were on the autistic spectrum or had a disability and were interested in completing their 16-week Professional Software Development Course.

These students were also supported through the course by Into Work, who specialise is supporting clients with a disability to gain training and employment.

The partnership saw six students supported through the full course, with a further student supported with night classes.

Employment Advisor Lee Hutchison from Into Work said, “It’s been a real pleasure working with and supporting the Get DigitALL students. Our clients have faced many hurdles in their attempts to find employment, but have always been resolute and it’s been fantastic to see their hard work rewarded. I’ve always found that when Into Work and our partners, progressive employers and students come together, we can deliver successful employment outcomes which diversify the digital sector and change people’s lives.”

One of the key successes of the project was seeing students moving in to employment at the end of their respective courses.

Two students from the Cre8te course managed to secure employment with Edinburgh Computers Ltd and Commsworld, while four students who graduated from the CodeClan course so far have secured employment with employers including Kythera and Sopra Steria.

Everyone associated with the project is delighted, with many students still being supported along with their employers.

Planning for the future

Another key success of the project was the relationship built with BT. Cre8te linked with BT to offer all students completing their course a chance to gain work experience. This provided students with meaningful experience in the customer services team and also with the home installations team.

For some, this was the first real experience of work and will prove valuable in terms of building evidence for their CV and ultimately, helping them gain employment in future.

So, some great success from the project and valuable learning, but what next?

All partners are keen to explore options for the future, while a funding application has been submitted for an off-shoot of Get DigitALL. The focus this time will be working with employers and offering them support to diversify their workforce.

Craig Dutton is Economic Development Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council.

The Get DigitALL partners will share learning from the project with employers at a special event on Wednesday 3rd October at CodeClan Edinburgh – book your free ticket today.

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