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London mayor announces £7m programme to seek out digital talent

Programme launched in London to help attract more young people, women and BAME individuals into technology careers

London mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a £7m initiative to find Londoners with digital talent and help to fill the capital’s skills gap.

The programme is intended to tackle some of the tech industry’s core issues, including a shortage of skilled workers and a lack of diversity across the sector.

The funding is part of the mayor’s Skills for Londoners programme, and will contribute to providing free digital skills training for more than 1,000 young people.

Khan said he hoped that by funding free digital skills training, more young people would want to look into tech careers, and more people would gain the skills the sector needs.

“London’s thriving digital and tech sector is a world leader,” he said. “From startup companies to household names, there is a huge range of home-grown and international companies here. But we need to provide all Londoners with the opportunity to succeed in this industry, particularly women and Londoners of a BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] background who have been under-represented in these fields for too long.”

Despite digital skills being increasingly important for a variety of non-technology roles across the UK, many adults do not have the digital skills needed to perform basic tasks.

As well as providing digital skills training, including coding, web development and digital marketing, the programme – funded through the London Enterprise Panel and co-funded by the European Social Fund – will aim to create a new marketing campaign to shine a light on some of London’s digital role models.

A lack of visible role models in the technology industry can contribute to a lack of diversity in the sector as people are not aware of the types of role available or the types of people who are working in tech.

This “Digital Pioneers” marketing campaign will aim to encourage young people into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers by highlighting other young people in these industries, as well as the range of careers and roles that are available.

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By making role models more prominent in the industry and providing support for young people to pursue a technology career, the hope is that the sector will become more appealing to under-represented groups, such as women and those in the BAME community.

Alongside the scheme’s launch, ERIC Festival staged a creative careers fayre, allowing young people to take part in free training workshops and meet representatives of large tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Bloomberg.

The mayor’s programme will also help to train 400 teachers and training providers to improve their digital skills. Many teachers feel they do not have the level of digital skills needed to teach computing properly.  

Although the government implemented the new computing curriculum in 2014 to teach young people computing concepts such as coding and computational thinking, there are still concerns over the gap between skilled workers and the digital roles that need filling.

The technology industry has put an emphasis on developing “home-grown” talent following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Concerns about the number of skilled workers planning to the leave the UK after Brexit is at the forefront of the sector’s mind.

As well as developing more diverse tech talent in the UK, the mayor of London aims to encourage the industry to play a bigger role in developing and recruiting new talent.

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