West Midlands employers including Sumo, PwC, St Modwen, and Sparta Global have been promoting the growth of a diverse future workforce in tech through their support of a virtual careers festival.
The recent #GirlTechWM initiative saw 342 female students and other young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) learn about future career opportunities in tech from people within the industry.
The festival was delivered by the non-profit organisation Ahead Partnership and was funded by the charity Millennium Point Trust. The virtual festival saw students from 10 schools across the West Midlands region engage with volunteers from 20 regional employers that pledged their support to the initiative.
#GirlTechWM aims to support the development of the future tech workforce, with the growth of the technology sector due to the pandemic and rise of home working only emphasising the need to grow and diversify the tech talent pool.
The festival engaged young people through a series of online interactive workshops, virtual Q&A panels about the technology sector, and several guest speeches from 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.
The festival targeted Year 8 students and young people from underrepresented backgrounds and has already produced some positive results by encouraging a 155% increase in the number of students that are now considering working in the digital sector compared to before the event.
Leonie Matthews, Project Manager at Ahead Partnership, 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.”