A new digital skills programme designed to provide a bridge from education to career opportunities for young people has been launched. FastFutures is a unique programme designed to provide participants with the skills employers value now and in the future, future-proofing careers, and limiting a potentially damaging skills gap for this generation entering employment. Those currently graduating into the workforce face a challenging labour market as a result of Covid-19 but one which has also accelerated the needs of many businesses for digital skills. The FastFutures digital skills programme aims to meet that need by providing tens of thousands of free places annually. The inaugural 12-week programme is being launched with 1,000 free places funded by the founding employers. Additional cohorts of similar sizes are expected in the months ahead as more businesses join the programme.
To encourage diversity across the participant pool, recruitment will focus on cognitive ability over verbal and numerical reasoning, helping to assess potential and talent. FastFutures is partnering with outreach networks to encourage under-represented groups to apply from a truly diverse range of ethnic, socio-economic, geographical and gender identities. This transformative approach is critical in helping to address inequalities across the workforce and promoting social mobility. FastFutures has been designed in collaboration with its founding employers to ensure the skills developed are those in demand from employers. Successful applicants will learn practical, business-focused skills via a 12-week programme, alongside site visits to founding employer workplaces, coaching, and mentoring from business experts. Modules include a practical business project, the role of data in a commercial setting, marketing, the importance of teamwork, and a basic understanding of finance. Online modules will be taught through set weekly learning hours, in addition to collaborative workshops, group projects and seminars, all using a connected learning platform. Coupled with this, mentors, provided by founding employers, will advise on the softer skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
Founding employers of FastFuture include AstraZeneca, Agilisys, AO.com, Barclays, Blenheim Chalcot, BT, Legal & General, Modulr, Health Education England and its partner NHS bodies, Octopus Group, Salary Finance, and Tate & Lyle. These organisations have committed the financial resources to ensure that the programme is free for all participants, enabling any individual to apply regardless of circumstance and background. The employers will also provide mentor support across the programme and have guaranteed job interviews with employment opportunities for those that are successful through their assessment processes. Mark Bretton, Chair, Local Enterprise Network, commented: “A programme that supports and enables our young people to gain the digital and personal skills they’ll need for their future careers is a great initiative.” “The fact it’s backed by some of the leading businesses in the UK and prioritises underrepresented groups will target those who need it most. We look forward to working with the programme team to see how LEPs can use our existing, proven skills infrastructure to accelerate implementation and help our young people to access the opportunities they deserve.” John Roberts, AO Founder and Chief Executive, said: “Talent is evenly distributed but opportunity isn’t. COVID has widened that gulf. We know young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer life chances and being digitally disconnected compounds disadvantage.” “It’s easy to talk social mobility but harder to create initiatives that make a difference, so I’m delighted AO is taking a leading role in the ambitious work of Fast Futures. With working remotely the new normal and more customers than ever choosing online, equipping youngsters with digital and business skills they don’t get at school will help them secure quality jobs that are vital to economic recovery.” Launched by Blenheim Chalcot, and delivered by Avado and Hive Learning, FastFuture is also working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships like D2N2 on how the programme can supplement existing skills infrastructure. Applications for the first cohort of the programme open today (28 July 2020), closing on 13 August 2020. Additional applications for the next cohorts will be advertised throughout the year as more employers join. Further details are available here: https://www.avadolearning.com/fastfutures/