From education to employment

Social enterprise launches initiative for businesses to help region’s young people get #AheadinDigital

Leeds-based social enterprise Ahead Partnership has today (14 Nov) launched a new careers initiative designed to inspire a diverse and vibrant pipeline of young talent pursuing roles in the digital sector across Leeds City Region.

In an exciting launch event at Hippo Campus in Leeds, Ahead Partnership brought together 60 representatives from organisations across the public and private sectors to introduce their latest scheme. #AheadinDigital will see digital sector employers from businesses of all sizes unite in force, with a joint ambition to deliver consistent, impactful messages that inspire and promote understanding about digital career opportunities amongst school and college students. 

With a UK-wide skills gap in the digital sector and a considerable 14,000 vacancies available for digital professionals over the last year in Leeds City Region alone, the innovative careers initiative is a timely effort to attract talent, increase diversity and fulfil future sector demand. 

With an excellent track record of delivering events and initiatives that inspire and engage today’s young people, Ahead Partnership’s new scheme expands on previous successful efforts to connect digital sector employers with young people. There has already been a flurry of positive feedback from stand-alone digital initiatives, with 100% of students that took part in the recent #GirlTech event sponsored by thebigword and Leeds City Council and involving dozens of local digital employers large and small reporting that the initiative improved their understanding of how to get into digital careers. 

Meanwhile, an impressive 97% of the post-16 students involved in the Farnell Technology Centre Challenge said that the initiative improved their understanding of skills needed to work in tech, and 94% of students that took part in the 2019 Sumo Digital Video Game Challenge saying they had an improved understanding of different roles in the video games industry. 

Following past successes, the new #AheadinDigital scheme will be designed by Ahead Partnership and delivered through a wide array of careers and experiential activities over the course of the academic year. Ahead Partnership will help to put on interactive panel sessions, networking tasters and cross-school digital events, and also offer the opportunity for individual organisations to have a bespoke initiative created to meet their specific business needs, ranging from branded enterprise challenges to work experience schemes. 

Commenting on the launch of the initiative, Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, said:

“We are delighted to see months of planning come together in what has been a hugely successful inaugural event to launch #AheadinDigital this morning. 

“The digital sector is facing difficulty in trying to attract the skilled workforce it needs and therefore we are bringing together many innovative businesses with a single collective aim – to provide a clearer message that has a greater impact upon the sector’s workforce pipeline. 

 “#AheadinDigital will be a collaborative scheme, equally beneficial to employers and young people alike, that engages students and encourages them to think about the opportunities in the digital sector, whilst providing employers with the chance to raise their profile and take a necessary step forwards in tackling industry concerns.”

Stuart Clarke, Director of Leeds Digital Festival, which is the largest tech event in the UK, added:

“The digital economy in Leeds has grown rapidly in previous years, and one of the city’s biggest strengths is in the diversity of the tech businesses that have made it their home. There are lots of smaller, exciting digital businesses that have emerged over the last few years, as well as the larger corporates such as Sky and BJSS, who have a big digital presence in the city.

“#AheadinDigital is extremely important as it seeks to bring all of the city’s digital businesses together, both big and small, to ensure that we improve access to digital jobs for all and support increased diversity within digital sector. 

“We’ve been delighted to support Ahead Partnership’s #FinProLCR event as part of Leeds Digital Festival in previous years and the launch of this new scheme marks a big step towards increased cross-sector collaboration around this important issue.”

Holly Smart, Global Head of PR and External Communications for Farnell, added:

“Farnell has worked with Ahead Partnership on a range of digital and tech initiatives in recent years, including the Farnell Technology Challenge, and we have seen first-hand the difference their work makes in inspiring young people and raising awareness of the opportunities available in the digital sector.

“As a global technology business based in Leeds, we seek to introduce the next generation to technology and the career opportunities that it creates. The launch of #AheadinDigital will help to encourage organisation’s from across the city to work collaboratively to address the skills challenges in the sector.”

Founded with the aim of improving workforce diversity, nurturing necessary skills, challenging perceptions of the digital sector and boosting its appeal, #AheadinDigital is set to be an enjoyable and rewarding initiative for both employers and students.

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