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Waltham Forest Tech Camp gives local residents tech experience

Tech Camp employer-led programmes are aiming to give local residents of London boroughs skills and connections with employers to tackle the growing skills gap

Tech Camp has named its winning team for the Waltham Forest chapter of its employer-led “career hackathon”.

The Tech Camps, run by Career Camp CIC, are employer-led training programmes that aim to give residents of particular London boroughs skills that could help them find employment.

Participants are residents of these London Boroughs who are either students or people looking for employment, often from non-traditional backgrounds.

Rebecca Davey, assistant director of employment, business and skills at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, where one of the most recent Tech Camps took place, said: “Events like Tech Camp are about showing young people the future world of work. But not only that, giving them real-life briefs and opportunities that enable them to build their CV and show future employers that they can actually do things.”

The UK’s skill market currently presents a number of issues, with shortages of technology talent, as well as a lack of focus on the soft skills many increasingly need to be successful in more technical roles.

But putting technical roles aside, a number of adults in the UK lack even the most basic digital skills needed to complete day-to-day tasks, making it important for more initiatives across the region to focus on giving people the skills they need for the modern workplace.

In each borough the Tech Camp visits, the residents are given a “borough brief” highlighting a problem in the local area that participating teams are aiming to solve with the use of technology.

For Waltham Forest, the brief asked teams to create a digital business idea aimed at making the streets of Waltham Forest safer after research by the local authority found 45% of people between the ages of 11 and 16 do not feel safe going out alone.

Teams spend time with employers – which, in 2019, included BT, Transport for London, CDW, and Rimini Street – that then provide mentoring and guidance on the business ideas.

Out of the 18 teams in the Waltham Forest chapter, City Stomper was chosen as the “standout idea” from the camp, an app which acts as a community tool with a number of features, including reporting anti-social behaviour in the community through a “stomp” button.

The team also floated the idea of a Waze-style feature which crowd-sources information from users, who could update safe or disruptive activities along routes in real time.

The runner-up, named Upload, pitched an online anti-harassment tool where victims of stalking and harassment can seek support, advice and guidance.

Many people who are being stalked or harassed do not feel comfortable reporting it, so Upload aims to be a tool where users can discretely report these issues to the police.

Other ideas included a bus service which could update parents on their children’s journey home, an app for flagging community safe spaces, a crime reporting tool and a community tool to help drug users find appropriate help and resources.

Previous participants in the Tech Camp have gone on to find roles in software engineering, and those who take part gain an EL3 Recognised Award in Employability & Professional Development, which they can use as proof of their experience when applying for jobs in the future.

Davey said: “Now when [participants] go to their next job interview, or submit their next CV, they’ll have something really potent and valuable on it that they can talk to an employer or a future manager or even colleagues about.

“That’s why we need to do more portfolio building experiential activities with young people so that they’re ready when they go into the world of work.”

The standout teams from the Tech Camps, once chosen by a panel of industry experts, is given access to industry professions, mentors and investors in the space who may be able to help them take their idea forward.

Tech Camp has run five London boroughs, with the aim of eventually expanding into all 33.

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