Forward-thinking West Midlands employers including Sumo, PwC, St Modwen and Sparta Global have been helping to address long-standing challenges for the technology sector and promote a diverse future workforce through an exciting virtual careers festival. Delivered by social enterprise Ahead Partnership, last week’s #GirlTechWM initiative saw 342 young female students and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) learn more about exciting future career opportunities from people within the industry.
The week-long festival follows two successful annual events hosted at Millennium Point in Birmingham, with this year’s #GirlTechWM living up its name and bringing activity online. Funded by Millennium Point Trust, the virtual festival saw students from 10 schools across the West Midlands engage with volunteers from 20 regional employers that pledged their support to the initiative.
With the technology sector accelerating as a result of the pandemic and rise of home working, #GirlTechWM made a significant collaborative intervention to support the future of the workforce, engaging young people’s interest through online interactive workshops, virtual Q&A panels about the technology sector and a number of guest speeches from inspiring young female role models in the industry, including teenage tech entrepreneur Kari Lawler and tech environmentalist Maddie Walters. This year also saw the introduction of workshops designed specifically for students with SEND.
Seeking to initiate real change, activity was targeted at Year 8 students and focused on reaching out to young people of typically-underrepresented demographics in the sector before they make important decisions about their future pathways. Successfully raising awareness and promoting interest in technology careers, the event encouraged a 155% increase in the number of students that were now considering working in digital, compared to before the event.
Leonie Matthews, Project Manager at Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise that works with businesses of different sizes and sectors to design and deliver social value projects that create positive change within society, said:
“The response we received for our third #GirlTechWM initiative was incredible. The level of engagement from forward-thinking technology businesses across the West Midlands demonstrates just how invested employers are in making the sector more accessible, inclusive, and open to all, fostering interest in its many opportunities.
“Through these types of initiatives, we’re able to address key sector challenges like diversity and contribute real social value to the communities we engage with, and the positive feedback that we’ve had from both employers and young people alike suggests the real impact that this is having.”
Abbie Vlahakis, CEO at Millennium Point Trust, added:
“The West Midlands technology sector has massive potential for growth and ensuring that we attract the right talent to facilitate its future success will be vital.
“We’re proud to have been able to fund the third successful #GirlTechWM initiative, which makes a key intervention by reaching out and attracting young people to consider technology as a career pathway. It’s a really important initiative that aligns very closely with our own mission. We know it makes a big impact on the young people involved every year, so it was fantastic that we could bring things online and deliver it again this year.”
#GirlTechWM 2021 is the most recent initiative delivered by Ahead Partnership in the West Midlands, and follows a range of other activities in partnership with businesses of different sizes and sectors across the region and beyond designed to tackle inequality, strengthen communities, support enterprise and develop skills.