Louize Clarke, Co-founder, Digital Gum, Reading

Please tell us a bit about Digital Gum, what problem is the programme trying to solve?
Digital Gum is a brand new digital skills programme that aims to help apprentices and return-to-work parents fast-track their digital careers and land their dream job through #skillsthatstick. The problem we solve is two-fold; for returners and apprentices it’s about giving them the in-demand digital and work-ready skills they actually need – social media marketing, app design and coding through to VR and SEO – in an accessible way. For employers, we’re widening the talent pool, in a flexible and practical way, nurturing the much-needed skills sets they actually need in their business.

How does the course prepare its students for digital careers?
In addition to hands-on practical learning, each cohort will work on a real life project. Our students will produce a diary that they can use as a digital CV to demonstrate their skills to employers. We’re also focusing on confidence, job searching and interview skills as part of the course. Regular guest presenters and employers will share the types of digital skills that they hire as part of the course.

What skills does it teach?
During the six weeks we will be teaching a diverse range of subjects to including social media, coding, web development, Virtual Reality and 3D printing. Again, that softer piece will come into play too, with modules on how to build an online audience and personal branding.

Digital Gum focuses on fast-tracking the digital careers of apprentices and return-to-work parents. Why is this the case? Why is this segment of workers particularly important?
Digital Gum is plugging a gap. There are so many coding, STEM and “women” digital skills initiatives out there but we want to champion the forgotten. Those who missed out on the coding now part of the school curriculum, those who coding feels all too geeky and not accessible. Working with the creative sector is also high on our agenda, so we’ll be promoting the A in STEM. We need more creative people working in , who have empathy and connection with the end user.

From the surveys we’ve conducted, we know that small businesses in particular are crying out for access to part-time, flexible workers but don’t have the time to re-train them. They also want to hire apprentices but have some reticence about taking someone straight out of school or college. Digital Gum acts as the employer’s six-week support and training ‘polish up’. Next year, we’ll launch our “corporate escapee” programme. Digital Gum’s mission is to plug the skills gap with a truly diverse candidate pool.

What do return-to-work candidates bring to the workforce which other workers might not, for instance recent graduates?
Returner talent is huge. They bring experience, problem solving and empathy – lots of of our cohort are parents who left the workforce due to family needs and are looking for a way to relaunch their careers. Productivity and efficiency is higher too. Also courage – it takes a lot to seek out a course, take that step into investing in training and actually signing-up. That positive approach is everything. I’m a big believer in hiring on attitude and for me, that speaks volumes.