From education to employment

How Sky is tackling the digital skills challenge

The risk of people being excluded from developing digital skills is a key reason why Sky runs its Sky Up programme. The initiative gives people access to the internet, works with schools to raise young people’s aspirations and gives people from all walks of life the chance to build rewarding careers in media and technology sectors.

The UK’s education system is leading the charge in using technology to improve the teaching and learning experience. Last year, EdTech found that 64% of schools use technology in everyday classroom teaching. They also found that 76% of UK schools have met their teaching and learning objectives, thanks to the use of technology.

The direction of travel is clear and we should expect these trends to continue. However, the digital skills charity, FutureDotNow recently found in their research that of the 18-24 year olds they surveyed, 55% were unable to complete their 20 essential digital skills. That means 55% are unable to use devices like a computer, tablet or mobile phone for learning tasks and do not always know how to be safe and responsible online. So a gap has emerged between the education sector embracing technology and the digital skills competencies of young people. That has to be tackled.

Closing the digital skills gap

The risk of young people being excluded from developing their digital skills is a key reason why Sky runs our Sky Up programme. Through Sky Up, we make a difference in three different ways. We give people access to the internet, we work with schools to raise young people’s aspirations and we give people from all walks of life the chance to build rewarding careers in media and technology sectors. By 2025, we aim to have reached over 250,000 people.

In 2022, we supported over 70,000 people through Sky Up, and we invested £27 million in projects for social impact. Our goal is to ensure those who are most at risk of being digitally excluded – under 25s in low-income areas and over 65s – are given access to the right skills, technology, and connectivity.

Using studio experiences to improve digital skills

A key part of the programme is Sky Up Academy Studios, which seeks to show students how to use technology and devices to create video content in our studios, but also open their eyes to careers in the media and entertainment industries. It’s fantastic that over a quarter of a million young people have participated in this unique studio experience where students create content on an urgent issue such as climate change.

Last year, over twelve thousand students from 525 schools participated and after surveying teachers from partner schools, 99% told us that the studio sessions developed digital skills in their pupils.

Academy Studios was historically based where Sky had UK sites, but we didn’t let bricks and mortar stop our ambition, we took it on the road with Sky Up Academies Studios On Tour. Since launching our mobile studios – housed in an e-vehicle – we visited 42 schools in 7 regions of the UK and Ireland, with over 7,000 students taking part. Together, they created 336 reels of video content, presenting to camera on the problems caused by local issues ranging from river pollution to the illegal dumping of waste in neighbourhoods.

The results are impressive, 81% of students reported an improvement in their confidence using technology that was new to them. During one of our studio sessions, a headteacher told me, “our highest ability children from a disadvantaged background could see they’ve got exactly the same opportunities as someone that is high ability from an advantaged background.”

The digital skills challenge isn’t going away

The recent findings by FutureDotNow should strengthen our determination to accelerate digital skills training for young people. Further, the charity also found that the UK could potentially lose £145 billion of GDP growth between 2018-2028 if we don’t tackle digital skills across the country. Sky Up will continue to support young people to access the skills, technology and connectivity they need to succeed and I look forward to working with our partners on this important journey.  

By Fiona Ball, Group Director, Bigger Picture, Sky

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