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Digital skills

Catch22 extends partnership with Microsoft into Bristol and Birmingham

A young man takes part in a virtual meeting using his laptop. He contributes to the meeting using the speaker on his earphone cable.

An inspiring programme co-designed by Catch22 and Microsoft is being expanded in a bid to help more people into digital jobs and apprenticeships. The programme aims to help tackle the employment crisis and address sector skills shortages.

Following a successful pilot project in London and Manchester, the Digital Edge programme will increase its reach in existing locations and roll out in Bristol and Birmingham – supporting 180 participants over two years.

Donna Lawson, Assistant Director of Employability at Catch22, said:

“The jobs market is taking a real battering due to COVID-19, and the effects are being felt disproportionately in deprived areas. In London and Manchester, 18.4% of jobs are in ‘shutdown sectors’ – the highest in England.  This programme will give those facing barriers to work – whether that’s due to their gender or ethnicity – or poor physical or mental health – or the fact they’re care leavers or single parents – a chance to gain valuable experience in digital careers. They will then be well equipped to embark on a digital apprenticeship or digital role.”

Digital Edge seeks to equip individuals with functional and employability skills to enable them to apply for digital apprenticeships. Despite the restrictions lockdown imposed, the programme has continued to run virtually on Microsoft Teams. It:

  • focuses on increasing the diversity of candidates applying for digital apprenticeship vacancies,
  • develops digital and employability skills through the free to access learning resources found on linkedin.com launched as part of Microsoft’s Digital Skills Initiative
  • supports them to create an aspiration-based career plan,
  • increases confidence and self-belief,
  • helps participants to secure a digital apprenticeship,
  • provides vital in-work support,
  • engages employers to open their doors to fresh talent, many in the Microsoft ecosystem, and
  • educates individuals on the power of networks, working with Microsoft volunteers to inspire and connect.

Since the pilot started in January this year, 22 people have been on the programme.

One participant said:

“The Digital Edge programme is supportive, encouraging and understanding to those who sign up to the programme. They do what they can to help you better yourself. Along the way you get a unique insight; Microsoft workshops help you see how technology is part of our lives and you see some of the latest developments that technology helps us with.

“The programme and online courses helped boost my confidence, allowing me to take part in virtual work experience with a digital technology start-up. This was only possible by being able to present myself better and by receiving help on the Digital Edge programme to improve my CV. Also, I learned how to pitch myself to people.”

Digital careers offer sustainable opportunities; two thirds of businesses in the UK have unfilled digital skills vacancies and 95% of businesses expect their digital skills needs to grow. Many employers provide on-the-job training, competitive salaries and progression opportunities.

Hugh Milward, Senior Director  of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs at Microsoft UK, said:

“I’m deeply worried about the challenges many young people today face in the current job market. Training, re-skilling and apprenticeships will be central to new job creation and the UK’s economic recovery. We need to ensure no one is left behind and it is clear that digital skills in particular will be crucial for people to thrive, especially those from communities that have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

“Catch22 and Microsoft’s Digital Edge programme can open the door to sustainable, well-rewarded careers in an industry that is expected to offer close to 3 million new jobs in the UK by 2025.  We look forward to hearing the stories and successes of those who take part.”