Creating social mobility through digital learning

Written by
Christine Hodgson

06 Sep 2018

06 Sep 2018 • by Christine Hodgson

Although young people in the UK are digitally savvy, they do not know how to use their digital skills for work purposes. This was a key finding of research conducted by Capgemini, in partnership with YouGov in 2016.

The message is that growing up with tech and being adept at using social media and consumer technology is simply not enough to enable the UK to compete successfully within a global digital economy.

At a time when the health of UK plc is increasingly dependent on digital, there is a growing need for younger generations to develop a strong foundation in digital skills (being able to use collaboration and communication tools and design software, understand the cloud and develop apps).

Unfortunately, the digital landscape is moving so fast that it is near impossible to keep up with the skills needed. For every new variant of technology not taught in universities or schools, we have to rely on the industry to train up employees in real time. This is particularly prevalent within the technology sector. With new apps and ways of working emerging every day, there is always a need to upskill – and this is a challenge globally

Practical steps

At Capgemini, we are tackling this problem through programmes such as our four-and-a-half-year degree apprenticeship, combining on-the-job experience with a BSc in digital and technology solutions at Aston University. Our first cohort of eleven students graduated in 2017 and are now employed with us full-time; a further 240 apprentices are undertaking the programme.

We were delighted that 64% of our students achieved a first-class degree, which is more than double Aston’s on-campus average. We’ve also partnered with the Prince’s Trust on the ‘Get Started with Apps’ initiative, an introductory week-long course for young people (aged 16-25) providing a taster of what is required in today’s digitally driven workplace.

Participants learn how to create their own mobile app from scratch, from the ideas stage through wire-framing, consideration of data sources, writing code and building a prototype. The idea is to help participants grow their digital literacy and ultimately use these in their careers. We’ve been impressed with how our clients have responded to the course, hosting sessions, volunteering with our people and attending the end of week celebration event.

Investing in upskilling our workforce

We have always invested in upskilling our employees via our internal academies. For example, in November 2016, we launched a digital training academy with 23 employees completing 10 weeks of intensive training, with the aim of growing our capabilities to support our clients’ digital agendas.

Our people went through a demanding learning experience involving classroom and online training, shadowing and practical work, to equip them with all the technical and soft skills needed to progress as digital developers, digital delivery managers and engineers.

We support the sharing of knowledge, regardless of an employee’s seniority, and tend to focus on the 70-20-10 model of learning, whereby 70% of learning is on the job, 20% through mentoring and coaching, and 10% classroom-based.

Since the start of our degree apprenticeship programme, we’ve seen a surge in reverse mentoring with graduates upskilling more experienced employees around the latest digital trends. This has helped teams bond while developing the social skills of junior employees.

Digital inclusion in the community

I am proud of our commitment to inclusion and social mobility. We provide a range of opportunities to people from diverse backgrounds to work in a traditionally graduate-driven industry, through our current degree apprenticeship programme. As a society, we need to equip young people for future employment.

From visits on our schools outreach programme, I’ve noted a gender divide around use and understanding of technology.

We find that while girls may use Instagram and Snapchat, they tend to be less interested in understanding how technology is changing the way we work. We want to inspire girls to view technology as a way of solving problems and making lives better.

Businesses need to consider a strengths-based approach to interviews, to be more open to candidates from all backgrounds, assessing people according to job fit and potential, rather than on previous achievements. It will allow those from less privileged backgrounds to show off their skill sets.

There’s still a very long way to go, but as employers, we must help schools to prepare young people for work. By supporting the education system to enhance digital literacy, we can ensure all school leavers are equipped with the tools and skills to develop bright careers in any industry they choose.