Is alternative digital training more than just a good alternative?

Nadina Osmani, August 14, 2017 2 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

There are still plenty of young people who think the path to a good career is school, university and then straight into industry.

However, there are now more and more examples of universities not meeting the needs of both jobseekers, and the rapidly evolving digital industries that grads should be preparing for.

And even beyond the young, plenty of other people out there feel stuck in their current profession, worried it may be too late for them to move onto something new.

So is that ‘traditional’ pathway really the only route? Can you really swerve once you’ve picked your path?

The 16 participants in our first Upskill accelerator for digital skills providers say ‘yes.’

They all provide specialist digital training, often based on the founders’ own industry experience of struggling to find the right people, aiming to equip trainees with the skills they need to walk right into jobs.

Why go into ‘alternative’ training?

Fast route to a specific job

It’s often suggested that what you learn at university will be out of date before you finish. And, to be fair, our higher education institutions are already responding to students’ demands to get something truly tangible from their courses.

But that issue is one reason why coding bootcamps have recently become such a credible alternative. Many of our Upskill cohort offer short, scheduled programmes promising the latest content relevant to your field, many with a job directly lined up for you afterwards.

Manchester’s Juice Academy, for example, hosts taster days where potential candidates meet with recruitment partners, like Social Chain and Lad Bible.

Real-world content

Several of our training providers came out of existing digital companies whose founders had noticed they weren’t the only ones struggling to hire people, so they set about solving the problem for their industry.

Liverpool’s Agent Academy, for example, came from inside the Baltic Triangle-based digital agency Agent Marketing, and its cohorts take on live briefs to get them ready for the real world. Agent says that 95 percent of its graduates have gone on to secure full-time industry employment, outstripping the results seen across all of our universities.

Business intelligence firm Peak, also a Tech North Northern Stars winner, is about to launch a highly technical training programme created because of the company’s own challenges around finding data scientists fit for our new, data economy.

Get into an industry that needs you

As many will know, the tech workforce isn’t representative of the diversity of the UK and Upskill participants like FDisruptors and HAC 100 seek to address those inequalities to create a more balanced workforce.

Whether that’s by encouraging more girls into tech, creating more grassroots opportunities for young people to have a go, or, like Northcoders, offering scholarships to women joining their courses.

So what’s next?

We gave these 16 alternative training providers some alternative training of our own to help them diversify, scale and pitch the opportunities they have, for employers and new hires.

Soon, we’ll be launching a first-of-its-kind index of digital skills provision, using the Upskill cohort as a prototype, to help make alternative skills more transparent and, therefore, more accessible.

It’ll show what the course is, at what skill level, so employers and learners know what they’re buying.

As a result, we’re hoping to see these trainers deliver their programmes to as many people as possible, to help more people in the North get digital jobs.

Until then, you can check our Upskill page for more information about the companies involved on the Upskill programme.

Northern Digital Jobs Strategy, Opinion, skills, talent, Women in tech