As part of the Digital City Festival, HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology, brought together key representatives from Salford City Council, AWS re/Start and IN4.0 Group, to explain more about how Skills City is changing the landscape of future technology talent.
The expert panel included Debbie Brown, Strategic Director of Service Reform at Salford City Council; Mo Isap, the founder and CEO of IN4.0 Group; Laura Addison, Senior Programme Manager EMEA at AWS re/Start; and Oyin Adebayo, CEO of Niyo Enterprise.
The panel was also joined by past and present students from IN4.0 Group’s AWS re/Start digital skills bootcamp, who shared their experiences of completing the programme and the struggles they have encountered when searching for digital and technical roles.
What does Skills City offer?
Skills City is a digital skills powerhouse set to transform talent diversity in the North West’s tech sector, by breaking the barriers faced by those from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds and fast-tracking 450 people into careers in digital technology every year.
Skills City comprises leading digital technology bootcamp academies, working in collaboration with employers at all levels to create a clear pathway to jobs and diverse talent recruitment.
Based at HOST, it aims to provide fairer access to digital and technology career starts, creating the most diverse technology talent pool and thus being a magnet for technology businesses to move into the region.
Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group, operators of HOST, explained that during the pandemic digital technology has become even more essential across all sectors and Greater Manchester has now achieved a status, not just in the country, but in the world as a digital superpower.
HOST’s mission is to ensure that jobs and opportunities reach across all communities by breaking the barriers for learners and working in collaboration with Salford City Council and other partners, to reach people who would have previously thought that these opportunities were out of reach or even impossible to achieve.
Skills City offers a fast-track into technology careers, as well as apprenticeships, to give people the skills they need to help them engage with employers, so they have a clear career pathway. For employers, they will have access to a diverse pool of talent from which they can also recruit.
Mo said: “At the heart of Skills City is fair access and it’s not a one size fits all. It is about individually working with people to understand their challenges and giving them the opportunity to succeed.”
Building a bridge to communities
Salford City Council is working hard to help build a bridge between the communities in Salford with the opportunities available at HOST, so they can provide people with growth and prosperity for the future.
Digital inclusion plays a big part in this and with over 90 per cent of all jobs having a digital element to them, it is more important than ever that young people and adults can access digital skills training, as well as develop any specialist skills that they will need to do their jobs.
There are often preconceptions and myths about what leads to a career in digital, like having to follow a specialist degree route at university but in reality, there are a lot of different options available.
Breaking these barriers to entry and creating an accessible route for communities in Salford so they are made aware of the opportunities on their doorstep is key to supporting people into successful careers.
The City Council has established gateway centres within different areas of Salford to help engage with residents and build a bridge to opportunities and employment.
Debbie Brown, Strategic Director of Service Reform at Salford City Council, said: “I think the really unique thing about this offer is that it doesn’t matter what your background is, it doesn’t matter what your skills and qualification level is, there’s a conversation to be had, there will be a role for you and there will be a path for you.”
Women in tech
While women in tech remain largely underrepresented with only 17 per cent in the UK, HOST has committed that 50 per cent of its learners will be represented by women in a bid to readdress gender inequality.
Rimsha Tariq graduated from the IN4.0 talent academy programme, which aims to address the digital skills gaps across Lancashire and Greater Manchester by working with employers to recruit digital talent from diverse backgrounds.
Rimsha explained that she not only gained technical skills in cloud computing and coding but also learnt useful personal development and soft skills that helped to improve her business mindset.
Having combined these skills with academic knowledge from her maths degree, she felt like it was a step up in her career. After working on an industrial project with NGF Europe Limited, Rimsha secured a job with the business as a continuous improvement technician.
“I have noticed that in manufacturing there’s not as many women, but obviously the academy did allow me the opportunity to work with a company. And it kind of kickstarted their vision of having more women in the company as well, so it’s quite a fantastic opportunity for me,” she said.
Oyin Adebayo, CEO of Niyo Enterprise, is also working with Skills City to deliver several bootcamps to upskill black women into tech roles, including coding, data analytics and project management.
David Adewole moved to Manchester during the pandemic last year and was unemployed when he found the opportunity to join the IN4.0 talent academy AWS re/Start programme.
He already had computer skills but was unsure how to apply them to gain a career in the tech sector. He found it beneficial working with employers on real-life industry projects and felt that overall, the academy “brings out the best in yourself.”
The academy also had a positive impact on David’s mental health during lockdown as he felt like he would have struggled otherwise, but because he found a safe space to relate to people with similar interests and hobbies, he felt supported.
“My team and everyone around me have helped me to blossom. Now that I know that there’s more things out there and I’ve got a team to support me after graduating, I just know that I’m in safe hands and it has definitely given me something to look forward to for the future,” David added.
Georgios Evangelinos also found it difficult to get a job and even though he had a master’s degree, he lacked the required experience that companies were asking for. He felt the academy offered him the hands-on experience and real-world perspective that he needed to progress further in his career.
AWS re/Start and IN4.0 are collaborating to build an inclusive and diverse global pipeline of new cloud talent by focusing on unemployed and underemployed individuals to help them launch a career in the cloud.
The academy supports students throughout their learning journey by providing continuous mentoring, tracking their progress and helping them to build a network of contacts so they can collaborate with others, as well as fellow students.
Over 60 learners have graduated from the AWS re/Start programme so far and applications are open for the next cohort which is due to start on Tuesday 4 May. Anyone from Greater Manchester and Lancashire who is interested in joining the next academy can apply now.