BCS launched its new Force for Good programme at the Digital Skills Network event in Reading recently , encouraging apprentices to pledge towards ending digital poverty by 2030.
Force for Good was launched in collaboration with the training provider BPP, which has supported six of its learners to sign up and lead the programme’s design.
Now, BCS is inviting other current and former apprentices to get involved and make a positive impact on their local communities. Pledges can include anything from advising school students about tech careers, to supporting jobseekers with interview skills and CV writing.
The initial cohort of BPP apprentices, employed by organisations including Santander and BT, shared powerful personal stories with the Digital Skills Network audience. One apprentice, Maha Mobeen, grew up in care and wants to reach out to young people in the same position. She explained, “There are so many young people who don’t know how to get into the IT industry – I feel like I could go there and influence them into making a positive decision for the future”.
Other apprentices shared motivations such as giving young women the courage to pursue a tech career, and ending the stigma against groups from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities through the power of technology.
At the event, attended mainly by employers and training providers, the apprentices shared ideas such as building an application that uses artificial intelligence to show people apprenticeship opportunities based on their skills and interests. The app would also answer users’ questions about apprenticeships and offer help with, for instance, writing covering letters.
Impressed audience members came forward to offer support with bringing the apprentices’ vision to life, committing everything from valuable contacts to expert involvement.
Ending the digital divide
Force for Good is part of BCS’s aim to end the digital divide by 2030, to help the six million people in the UK who lack digital devices or the skills to use them. Apprentices can play a role by inspiring others to discover fulfilling career opportunities and learn vital digital skills.
The programme aligns with the work of BCS’s Digital Divide Specialist Group, which champions digital inclusion for all through access to skills and technology. Freddie Quek, Chief Technology Officer at Times Higher Education and Chair of the Digital Divide Specialist Group, addressed Digital Skills Network attendees. He said, “Digital poverty cannot be solved by one person, but if every person takes one action, it will make a big difference.”
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Nicki Hay, Director of Apprenticeship Strategy and Policy at BPP, said of the programme: "The Force for Good campaign highlights the importance and value of using apprentices as advocates for digital careers. At BPP, we recognise the connection our apprentices can make with young people and give them a platform to reach out to schools through our Apprenticeship Influencer programme. The six learners who have launched the Force for Good campaign are all part of this programme and we are incredibly proud of what they are doing to improve access to digital careers and put a spotlight on digital poverty."
Employers and training providers can empower apprentices to make a difference by allowing time away from day-to-day work and providing support such as useful contacts. Pledges could even be treated as a career development opportunity, reinforcing technical expertise as well as soft skills like public speaking, leadership, and emotional intelligence.
In the long term, Force for Good will benefit organisations by narrowing the digital skills gap through supporting a diverse range of people to fill essential roles.