The Digital Futures Programme, the global industry-education collaboration scheme, has announced its expansion into three additional locations after achieving notable success at its original site, UTC Heathrow.
This initiative is a collaborative effort between industry employers and the education sector that aims to combat the persistent skills shortage in digital infrastructure, with a focus on network cabling and data centre sectors. After the initial success at UTC Heathrow, Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET), which operates this school, is now launching its innovative Digital Futures Programme at UTC Oxfordshire, UTC Reading, and UTC Swindon.
The venture, known for launching the UK's first data centre oriented curriculum, named the Digital Futures Programme, is set to continue its mission of empowering young people aged 14-19 to thrive in technical careers within the digital infrastructure industry.
The programme allows students to contribute towards a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Engineering (NQF), with curricula designed by industry employers. Following the extension, each UTC under the ALET will be able to accept 150 students per year onto the Digital Futures Programme. Across the four ALET UTCs, this equates to a total of 600 students per academic year gaining exposure to network cabling and data centre-specific skills.
The expansion of the Programme was launched at an event attended by nine employer partners: Amazon Web Services, ARK Data Centres, CBRE, CNet Training, CyrusOne, Digital Realty, LMG, Virtus Data Centres, and Yondr. These partners are committed to supporting all ALET UTCs delivering the Digital Futures Programme, and they will be collectively known as ALET Trust Partners.
The Digital Futures Programme has been recognised with three global awards since its inception, including the Datacloud Global Awards Education and Employment Project Award of the Year and the Data Centre World Best Talent Developer. The industry partners involved are providing financial support and contributing to curriculum development but also devote time to delivering a mix of employer-led projects, challenge days, masterclasses, and skills workshops to the students.
The industry-education initiative is more than just accolades, according to a statement from the company, as the first cohort of graduates from UTC Heathrow accepting apprenticeship roles with industry partners directly relevant to the programme. The continuation of this successful path could play a crucial part in addressing the ongoing skills shortage within the digital infrastructure industry. The ALET and its supporting partners are actively educating students in these crucial, transferable skills, helping to ensure a resilient, sustainable future for the sector through highlighting rewarding career options to students.
Jo Harper, CEO of ALET, commented, "The UK is facing an unprecedented skills shortage: we need engineers, computer scientists, and other digitally-skilled staff. The Digital Futures Programme is focused on equipping students with the skills to succeed in the digital industries, bringing together companies serious about acting to address the skills shortage with STEM-focused schools with specialisms in digital, engineering, and science prepared to forge a new path for their students."