Blog: Widening access to the digital industry

We need to make our industry the number one careers choice for young people and adults returning to the workforce

Cavendish code club
Code club with year 5 Cavendish students

This blog post is the second in a series thinking about a digital strategy for a seaside town. We’re based in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and it draws from work we’ve done with local students, schools and colleges.

TechResort has been in business for almost a decade, and we’ve seen a big impact from our work. Our earliest students have graduated from university, and many of our younger intake are either helping us to help others, or have great digital projects of their own. What we’re doing is working.

One of our young people told me with excitement the other day about a digital sign project they’re making for our window. We’ve had many projects like this, and it’s great to see.

Exception, not the rule

The problem is it’s not happening enough. We’re working with ever increasing numbers of young people, but they’re still counted in tens rather than hundreds or thousands. They’re the exception, not the rule. The education system needs to be designed to encourage more students to consider the digital industry as a career.

Seaside towns are over reliant on tourism and retail. In boom years this is fine, but we seem to having less and less of those. A third leg of digital would give our economy a boost, and provide our young people with hope, better wages and a route on to the property ladder.

This would also share the proceeds of digital growth locally and more evenly, and flow into service businesses run by local people. If there was more money in town, it would give the local tourism industry an off-season lift. Everyone wins.

Open our industry to everyone

Young people and returning adults need to know that the local digital industry offers a wide variety of rewarding and creative careers. Right now, many don’t even know there are local digital companies. Others have outdated ideas about what we do – it’s only about coding, cabling or running an IT helpdesk. These skills are badly needed, but there’s so much more to our industry.

I’m from a design background (Architecture), and run major digital transformation programmes. I spend most of my time thinking about the people that use the things we build, how to better satisfy their needs, and how we can collaborate with others. In my day job, I work with content designers, interaction designers, user researchers, data analysts, software developers and more disciplines besides. We need to demonstrate a much broader view of our work.

Offer more opportunities to learn

TechResort has delivered most of the following projects at a small scale, and they’re ready to scale up. They’re worth talking about as a place to start:

  • launch a few more digital skills clubs in local schools. Start early, with 10 year olds and let them explore, fixing problems for themselves. It’ll help them become self starters in later life, which is essential for them to stay ahead of future changes in our industry
  • run digital skills holiday clubs (see photos of past clubs we’ve helped to run)
  • provide drop in sessions for teens so they can access better kit and support (our Teens sessions are running again after the pandemic and you can book here)
  • offer real world projects for older students to get their teeth into. Better if there’s a genuine need, a real client, and a focus on group working. Budding coders need to work with interaction designers, writers, project managers. The closer we can get to real life working the better. If we get this right, it’ll tie up nicely with T-Levels and higher and degree apprenticeships
  • investigate whether it’s worth launching an online community for local students and employers. Could we run a Discord server, for example? What would be on it? Would anyone turn up?

Give a clear picture of the local industry

We’ve also made a start on some of the ideas below, and would like to work with other organisations to do more:

  • encourage young and diverse employees to give a careers talk in a school, and sign up ourselves
  • help schools careers teachers update their knowledge of our industry, and work with them to identify students who might be interested
  • run a couple of great digital careers events every year for all local schools (the Big Futures Show and the Booksy events are making big strides here)
  • is it worth making an online directory of local digital companies, with a jobs board? We made a map years ago, and ran jobs on this site (was delighted to hear tonight that it led to a hire). Perhaps this could be a real world project we give to a group of students?
  • should we have a public show and tell with our best stuff once a quarter, and invite students to attend? We’re all doing some pretty great projects between us, and we never talk about them. Perhaps our students could show their work too? Maybe some of this could turn into great TikTok content? (OK, maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself!)

With everything listed above, it’s essential we encourage girls and non-binary pupils, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, neurodiverse, disabled and introverted students to be fully involved. Our industry needs to be more diverse, and we’ll all see the benefit.

Once we’ve tried some of these projects, and we’re working together in a joined up way, we’ll be in a much better position to know what to do next.

Thoughts are welcome!

We’d love to hear your views, and also team up to explore further work. You can read more about our emerging digital strategy here.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *