Two ways that we’re helping London bridge the digital skills divide

COVID has accelerated the shift to digital, compressing what would likely have been a decade of incremental change into just a few weeks. There are two distinct digital skills gaps — basic and advanced – and we know that narrowing both will be vitally important to the UK’s and London’s recovery, which is why we are tackling them in different ways.

Around nine million UK adults (including around 810,000 Londoners) can’t connect to Wi-Fi to apply for jobs, buy online or access Government services. Many rely on benefits or short-term work to pay rent and feed their families. Unable to afford tech or data to be online, many are also struggling with literacy and numeracy. This group is falling further behind in their basic digital skills.

Capital City College Group is transforming the lives of Londoners on low incomes. The Group provides up to level 2 (equivalent to GCSE) including basic digital skills courses and hundreds of short evening, daytime and weekend courses which are free to adults. Thousands of adults are returning to education, many for the first time in years. 

The second gap is with advanced digital skills, endangering London’s ability to compete in the post-COVID world. As economies recover companies need advanced digital skills, in particular the coding skills needed to build and maintain the digital infrastructure underpinning the global economy. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, mobile and emerging technology skills are in demand.

According to research, 11% of London’s micro firms and 18% of large firms require advanced digital skills. Being comfortable with the ​‘back-end’ of systems, databases and servers, also the public-facing ​‘front-end’ websites, as a full-stack engineer or developer, are increasingly valuable skill sets. Average salaries are around £55,000 per year with unlimited opportunities for growth.

The Group and 01 Founders have set-up aninnovative free coding school in London, which is for anyone, regardless of background, experience or qualifications. Learners will receive two years of advanced digital skills learning and two years of paid employment, and it’s the only training that guarantees a software engineering job on completion.

01 Founders is also working with community partners Tech Nation, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, CodeYourFuture, One Million Mentors, Aspire Education, SheCanCode, YSYS (Your Startup Your Story), Elevating Founders and Pathways Education to attract diverse talent and support their progress. 01 Founders will set up over 20 schools across the UK by 2030.

As London emerges from the pandemic, we’re confident that our work will equip thousands of Londoners with the skills, confidence and network they need to enhance their job prospects in the exciting post COVID world.

This was first published on London First, By Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Capital City College Group and Joysy John, CEO of 01 Founders.

October 3, 2021