Featured

Welcome to the new Digital Innovators website

Mick Westman, Founder

I’m thrilled to welcome visitors to our new Digital Innovators website (and blog).

The last 12 months or so have been a whirlwind of activity for our team. What started (in 2016) as a pilot project to help young people that had struggled to reach their full potential through traditional academic routes, has since blossomed into a full blown course benefitting hundreds of students – and we couldn’t be more pleased.

Our work to date has seen us develop relationships with colleges, universities, local authorities and employers, all of whom want to help young people unlock their potential. Feedback from our students and partners suggests we really are changing lives – not just by giving students the skills they need to excel in the workplace, but by giving them the confidence in their own ability to succeed.

Take a look at the unique way that we work with young people in further education, and the exciting projects the students are engaged in with our local employers. Projects that make a real difference.

None of our work would be possible without the considerable support of our partners, employers and supporters. Thanks to generous support, we are starting to expand what we do and look forward to sharing some announcements about this soon.

As well as our latest news, our blog contains insights into our ground breaking work, and our thinking on topics such as apprenticeships, the future digital workforce and what being being “digital” means.

This is also where we’ll keep you updated with our latest news, tell you about events and courses we are running and also publish informative posts on the digital world we all live in.

We have gone through a re-branding exercise managed by our Associate Communications Director, Catherine Martin, and have a great new logo and look that reflects our belief that we truly do “Unlock Potential”.

We’re excited about the future and look forward to working with existing and new partners to enable more young people to find the right path to their chosen career.

From lockdown hobby to side hustle

Using social media to start your business

Do you have a hobby? Do you have a passion? Is there something you really enjoy doing? Maybe you’re good at sports or excellent with cars. Perhaps you love cooking or are really into game design. Everyone has something!

Well, personally – I’ve always been a creative person. From writing to painting, I love activities which allow me to take the ideas that are in my head and put them down on the page.

This aspect of my personality has definitely impacted my career path, which has led me to my current role at Digital Innovators. However, this article will be delving into how social media allowed my lockdown hobby to turn into a side hustle business, which in turn helped me land my current job!


Where did it all start?

So, as the world fell into chaos with the advent of COVID-19 and the UK entered the first lockdown in March 2020, I was working as a Cultural Intern in Marketing, Communications and PR. My internship then finished at the end of March and the potential jobs I had lined up were cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Finding myself unemployed, I was completing online courses to boost my CV and applying to job after job. This was a very uncertain time and I found it difficult to be without a stable income or structure, something which many can relate to. So, to structure my days and have a practical hobby to keep myself occupied during lockdown, I decided to pick up a paintbrush for the first time in years and started painting again.

What began as a creative outlet, painting things I could see from my window or in my garden, developed in to doing paintings for my family and friends. With their wonderful responses and encouragement, I set up an Instagram page where I began to share my creations…


As I got more and more engagement on my Instagram page, I found that people responded really well to my paintings and were willing to pay for them! So, I went from documenting my lockdown creations to selling customised paintings, the most popular being pet portraits. I would share my latest commissions as well as reviews from recent clients, who would tag me on their own profiles – which would raise awareness of my small business, resulting in more orders.

This was a great way to keep busy during lockdown and earn some money whilst I was looking for full-time work, something which I continue to do alongside my day job at Digital Innovators.


How did my passion project impact my job search?

Speaking of my current role – during my interview for this job, my now-colleagues asked me how I had spent my time during lockdown and what steps I had taken to develop whilst at home. Whilst being able to cite many online courses, I was also able to describe how I had rediscovered a hobby and used social media to turn this into a small business venture.

After finding out that I was successful in this interview and had landed the job, my colleagues informed me that this was a contributing factor in them making their decision to hire me – due demonstrating resilience and determination, as well as integrating creativity and social media marketing.

My aim in telling you this story is to show that you never know where your passions will take you. It has been nearly a year since we entered the first lockdown and I picked up that paintbrush. I didn’t imagine that setting up an Instagram page to share my creations would end up in the development of a side hustle business through which I can exercise my passion, as well as helping me gain full-time employment.


So, what is your passion?

Do you want to start your own business or side hustle? Think about what you enjoy doing, what you are good at, the ways in which you could develop this into a side hustle, the skills you would be harnessing along the way… You never know where it might lead you.

The Digital Innovators Skills Programme is a great way to develop your skills whilst at home, including harnessing your entrepreneurial and digital abilities, and incorporating these into an 8-week live work project with leading employers. Find out more here – discover how we can help you develop your business ideas.

Click here to download our Side Hustles and Passion Projects Vision Board to help you envision your potential project ideas and how you can go about developing them.

This article was written by Bronia - Communications and Business Development Assistant.

Why you need a side hustle

When I left university having obtained a (not very good) degree in Physics, I had a real desire to be a photographer. At the time, cameras still used something called film and the internet didn’t exist.

None of the digital technology we so take for granted today, for making, creating and distributing images existed. To make it then as a photographer you not only needed technical and creative skill, you also needed to build your own contacts and networks. I quickly realised that this was going to take time. So, what did I do? I gave up!

Sure, I dabbled. I did a few weddings for friends. I tried a bit of what I now know is called street photography and heck, I even made my own photo books. But then, life got in the way. I got a “real” job, I got married, acquired a mortgage, had a kid… Photography was definitely on the back-burner.


What happened next?

The digital revolution happened. Suddenly, photography was revolutionised and became accessible again with the invention of the internet, photoshop, SD cards, social media, and more.

It’s hard to remember life before all of these things and of course many people know of no other way – even I take it for granted. But we shouldn’t.

Whilst many use all of this technology to mindlessly consume stuff (watching series after series, scrolling through social media, and so on) we must not forget we can also use it to create stuff too.

More importantly, it’s now easier than ever to use the tech we have at our disposal to build a side hustle. A side hustle doesn’t have to be another job or business (though it can be). It doesn’t even have to make you a lot of money (though it might one day in the future).

Rather, a side hustle is something that can help with your personal development, as well as improve your creativity and enable you to hone your entrepreneurial skills.


Here are three reasons why you might consider doing a side hustle.

  1. A side hustle can make you some extra cash. If there’s something you are passionate about and you have built up some skills in that area there is no reason not to sell your services to someone who could benefit. You don’t have to charge a lot, and you might even charge nothing at all whilst you are building up your skills, but you should not undervalue your services once you get good at what you do.
  2. A side hustle will help you develop your skills and experience. If you’re truly passionate about something you’ll find yourself seeking out information and education opportunities as often as you can. Learning becomes an intrinsic and natural part of what you are doing. Before you know it you’ll have learnt more than you realise and your skills and knowledge will be both valuable and marketable. You may also find they are transferable to other sectors and businesses.
  3. A side hustle gives you the chance to try something out. If you don’t give up your day job, and are able to maintain a steady source of income, your side hustle can be a way of trying different things out in a relatively, risk-free way. If you fail, you’ll learn lots and can try different approaches until you become more expert at what you do. It’s also a way of seeing if you really do want to do this thing, and maybe make a career out of it.

So, how do you make time for a side hustle when you have full-time responsibilities? How do you actually make it happen?

  1. Use your lunch break. Even the odd 30 minutes here and there will enable you to progress a little bit.
  2. Reevaluate you weekends. I’m not suggesting you spend all your weekends working but how about – rather than having that long lie in on a Sunday morning, you get up a couple of hours earlier?
  3. Stop mindlessly scrolling. Check your screen time. How much of that is spent endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram? Is that a good use of your time? Before you pick up your phone in the morning, try to do something creative instead.
  4. Stop watching those Netflix series. Edward Murrow (the American journalist and war correspondent) said back in 1957 that television is “the real opiate of the people,” – suggesting the effects of consuming too much TV to be similar to the effects of a tranquilliser. He would have been even more correct about that today. The average series of 10 episodes at one hour each could give you back 10 hours – think about it.
  5. It’s up to you to find a way. Ultimately it’s up to you to make it happen and carve out some time to start that side hustle. Either you want to do it, in which case you’ll find  the time, or you don’t, in which case you’ll sit on the sofa watching the latest Netflix series whilst seeing what your friends are up to on Facebook. You choose which course you want to take.

It’s up to you…

“Whatever it is that you do, the hard stuff – the really hard stuff that people actually value –  will be no different. The Internet is just something that allows us to connect easily – it can’t lead our lives for us while we just sit around in our underwear…”

Hugh MacLeod – blogger, entrepreneur, and author.

So, at the end of the day it really is up to you. What could you create if you put your mind to it?

Click here to download our Side Hustles and Passion Projects Vision Board to help you envision your potential project ideas, think about how you can go about developing them and note ways to keep yourself accountable.

This article was written by Pete - Design and Technology Director.

After school and sixth form – what’s next?

Navigating post-education life

It’s National Careers Week 2021 – a week dedicated to the celebration of careers guidance across the UK! To mark the occasion, we wanted to discuss the next steps after finishing school and college… Despite being a year into a global pandemic, which has brought many things to a stand-still, there are still steps you can take to discover your career path.

Once you’ve finished formal education, you begin your journey in the world of work with some sort of career path in mind. The concept of a “career path” when you’re 16-18 might seem daunting as you may think this means that the decisions you make now will impact the rest of your life.

Whilst the choices you make once leaving school will affect your immediate next steps, by no means do you need to have your entire career mapped out! Nowadays, people change careers multiple times – finding new passions and skills along the way.

So, there is no need to have your future planned until your retirement. However, it’s worth thinking just a few years ahead. Luckily, there are plenty of possible paths you can take. Before we dive in, it’s important to note that when unsure of your career direction, you should choose a pathway that enables you to do something you enjoy – after all, that’s half the battle.


What can I do after I’ve finished my studies?

University

You can pursue further education at university. Depending on your interests and the career you have in mind, you may need to go to university in order to specialise in this subject – for example, if you want to be a doctor or a physician. Alternatively, you can study your preferred area of interest, such as history or a foreign language, and keep your options open for opportunities that come to light as a result.

Apprenticeship

You can do an apprenticeship. If you’re tired of traditional education and prefer hands-on learning, an apprenticeship could be the route for you. Through a mixture of study and hands-on experience, you can become qualified in your desired area, get paid whilst you learn, and potentially land a full-time job with the organisation you trained with.

Whilst apprenticeships are often linked to jobs in construction and engineering, they can actually be found in most sectors – including healthcare, agriculture, animal care, business, administration, environment, the digital sector and many more. In addition, an apprenticeship can lead you the same outcome that can be attained via university, as some apprenticeships incorporate you obtaining a degree. The difference is that it takes longer, and you can decide how far you want to go with the qualifications whilst you’re working.

Full-time Employment

If you’ve got your grades and have a job role in mind, you might be able to head straight into full-time employment. Try looking for entry level roles – there are plenty of organisations who look for young people straight out of education to come to work for them. These organisations will often teach you what you need to know whilst you’re on the job, offering training opportunities with first-hand experience of the trade. This might be a role as an accountant, a plumber, a retail worker, etc. Do some research and see what you can find!

If all of the above seem a bit daunting and you’re not quite sure what you want to do – that is completely fine!


I don’t think those options are right for me… What else can I do?

There are other paths you can take in order to find out what career you’re interested in pursuing. For example, whilst committing to a full-time job, apprenticeship or university course might feel too permanent, you can seek out work experience in order to get a taste for a potential sector or specific role during a limited amount of time.

You can do this by approaching the company directly to seek a work experience placement, looking for voluntary roles or researching internships in your desired sector – some of which might be paid. If the perfect opportunity comes along, but it is unpaid, you might still be eligible to claim universal credit. You should check with your local authority or job centre to be sure.

Another way to get a taste of an industry, whilst developing your skills, is to take some online courses. There are plenty out there – covering anything from marketing to coding and more – and many of them are free and provide you with a certificate upon completion.

The Digital Innovators Skills Programme is a great way to combine online learning with hands-on work experience. Over the course of the 11-week programme, our participants receive 3 weeks skills training covering topics such as communication, confidence, networking, digital skills and more.

Then, they are able to put these skills into practice on an 8-week work project with a leading employer. Recent examples of employers our students have worked with include the NHS, West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council, Taran 3D, Vanti, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, National Grid Metering and many others.

Finally, our participants graduate the programme with tangible work experience which they can include on their CV and are able to talk about their enhanced skills and experience with confidence in an interview.


Next steps and where to find careers advice

So, whilst things might feel strange and stilted as a result of COVID-19, there are steps you can take to kickstart your career and build your future. There are endless opportunities, which have only increased with the facilitation of working from home and remote learning, meaning jobs that were once only available to those who lived in London, for example, can now be accessed remotely by the rest of the UK.

All you have to do is have a think about what the best route for you is! Check out the hashtag #NCW2021 on social media to take advantage of the careers advice being shared throughout this week from National Careers Week, National Careers Service, and many more.

If you’d like careers advice directly to your inbox every fortnight, subscribe to The Stride – your fortnightly fix of careers advice, employer insights, downloadable resources and local opportunities.

The Stride - supporting your path to employment

You can see our previous issues here – from job hunting in a pandemic, how to unleash your creativity, an apprenticeship takeover and more.


The article was written by Bronia - Communications and Business Development Assistant

Food vs fabric – why digital skills are needed in virtually any industry

It’s not just technology-led businesses that need digital skills. Virtually every industry relies on at least some digital skills, particularly when you consider that these skills extend to things like digital communication.
 
To help illustrate this, I caught up with my friend Louise who works for one of the most famous bread companies in the world – Kingsmill – as an Assistant Brand Manager. In addition to my work for Digital Innovators, I also work for an independent local patchwork and quilting business Cotton Patch, as the Marketing Executive. Whilst the companies Louise and I work for are very different and the roles entail different day to day tasks, there are a lot of core digital skills that we both rely on.
 
I asked Louise to list some of her core tasks so I could compare our two job roles and the skills needed. Here’s what I discovered…
 


1) Read, understand and present data

Data analysis may sound a bit dull, but it’s an integral part of understanding what is working and what isn’t. For both Louise and I, we need to be able to take the data from our marketing projects and clearly convey to other members of the business the successes and the areas that need improving. For Louise, this is maintained through regularly creating and updating excel spreadsheets as well as presenting these results in presentations and meetings. And for me, it’s done (slightly more casually) through sharing the stats directly from our social media and scheduling platforms to my colleagues with a written/vocal explanation of what they mean and what we can take from them.
 

2) Communication

One of the most essential and widely recognised skills across all industries, communication is key in both of our marketing positions. As it’s a small business, my role includes things like photography or social media scheduling that would be outsourced in a larger company. However, I’m still constantly in communication with the business director and the website coordinator and sometimes even customer service, to ensure the marketing message is consistent. For Louise, her communication works on a much larger scale. She has to organise photographers and agencies as well as her onsite team to ensure large campaigns follow through smoothly and convey the intended message. Small or large scale, communication is an integral skill in all successful businesses.

3) Website Management

Something Louise and I have both played a part in during our employment, is the management of the website. Websites are ever-changing and more than ever are becoming an indispensable asset for all types of businesses. They need to be up to date and on brand, meaning a variety of different jobs have the responsibility to understand website management – even if you’re not directly making the changes yourself.

4) Content Creation

A largely creative side to our jobs, both Louise and I work to come up with initial campaigns and content ideas. Louise creates a strategy and directs others to make her vision happen. For me, I do the planning, capturing and scheduling but on a much smaller scale. Both of us follow through from start to finish and have to have an understanding of the trends and processes of digital and social content creation in order to think outside the box and reach our companies goals.


It’s clear to see, for Louise and I to be successful in our roles, we both rely on the same core skills that we’ve moulded and adapted into different careers, many of which are the digital and soft skills taught on the Digital Innovators Skills Programme.

It’s these integral, core skills that we will carry with us to future opportunities in different industries as our careers progress. So even if your first job isn’t your first choice, don’t forget the importance of learning transferable skills that will help you take the next steps in your career. 

This article was written by Liv - Communications and Business Development Assistant

What jobs use digital skills?

At Digital Innovators we not only coach our students in digital skills, but we also give them the real-world experience of applying those skills on projects provided to us by our employer partners.

One of the questions we are frequently asked by prospective students is: if I join one of your programmes, what kind of roles and opportunities will this open up for me? Before we answer that question, it’s worth considering exactly what we mean by digital skills.


The Digital Innovators Skills Programme training curriculum is informed by a framework [1] developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). This framework classifies digital skills into five key areas:

  1. Information and data literacy. Browsing, searching, filtering, evaluating and managing data, information and digital content.
  2. Communication and collaboration. Interacting through digital technologies and devices as well as understanding the rules of ‘netiquette’ and how to manage your online digital identity.
  3. Digital content creation. Developing digital content as well as integrating and re-elaborating that content. Understanding copyright and licensing issues as well as the basics of programming.
  4. Safety. Protecting devices, your personal data and privacy as well as health, well-being and the environment.
  5. Problem solving. Creatively using digital technologies to solve problems by understanding needs and identifying technological responses

Having looked at this list of essential digital skills, you are probably beginning to see just how important they are, not only in the world of work but also to manage everyday tasks. These skills can be used to conduct tasks such as online shopping and banking, searching for information, storing and organising files such as photos and documents, interacting with government services as well as consuming, and writing content for, social media.

So – what kind of roles could you find yourself taking on if you were to attend one of our programmes? Well, let’s take a look at some recent projects undertaken by our students and explore what skills they demonstrated in tackling them.


A project with the NHS to build a virtual operating theatre to train staff.

The NHS is by far the largest employer in the UK with 1.4 million people on its payroll. The NHS is always looking at ways they can introduce new technology across all of its services to not only improve health outcomes of its patients but also for ways to help improve the working and learning environment for its staff.

Digital Innovators has partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust to develop an innovative virtual operating theatre which allows medical staff to move around the theatre and interact with doctors and nurses who will ask them questions as part of their training. This involved filming inside an actual operating theatre (pre-pandemic) using a 360 camera and then importing the film into a software application to program the interactive elements. This can then be viewed either on a computer screen or via VR headset.

Students working on this project had to collaborate with NHS staff in producing the film then develop their content creation skills to edit this and add the interactive elements. This also involved them in building their creative skills as well as becoming more confident in presenting their findings to the project sponsors.

A project with Vanti to tackle a market research challenge.

Vanti is a Birmingham-based technology company that specialises in the built environment, making buildings and spaces better for the people who use and occupy them. The company is developing a range of smart technology products to help their clients create a flexible, productive, and efficient workplace. 

In order to build the right products for the market and define what products they should develop, Vanti engaged students from our programme to perform an eight-week market research project that looked into what products existed in this space and come up with recommendations on where the company should focus their development efforts.   

This project required our students to follow an agile approach and define a number of sprints which would deliver successive levels of detail in their research. It required collaboration between the students and Vanti, developing content using Microsoft Office products as well as applying what they had learnt in design thinking, critical thinking, presentation techniques and creative thinking to critically appraise the market and produce their findings in ways that would resonate with Vanti’s staff.

Did you know that, on average, jobs which require digital skills pay 29% more than those that do not?

A project with Psytech International to build a well-being and journaling app.

Psytech International is one of the world’s leading developers of psychometric tests and software for the workplace. Their assessments measure a range of different aptitudes and abilities such as general, critical and abstract reasoning, personality and values as well as occupational interests and learning styles.

Journaling, as well as being a powerful wellbeing tool is also a great way to help people recognise their progress and show future employers how they have developed their capabilities and experience over a period of time. The purpose of this project was to take journaling to a new level by building a modern, web-based and/or app journal for learning, personal profiling and development and well-being. 

The students on this project, completed extensive market research, before building a prototype app that focused on encouraging people to keep a journal that was linked to their strengths profile (one of the assessments available from Psytech). The prototype also included features such as suggested learning activities, inspirational quotes, suggested books to read, and tips on how to improve motivation and decrease stress.

This was another project that really showcased our students creative abilities as well as their collaboration, presentation and content creation capabilities.

A project with Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority to improve engagement with unemployed people in the region.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are running a number of programmes that identify people not in employment, education or training (NEET’s) and point them to education and learning opportunities to improve their skills and provide them with opportunities for getting jobs in the digital sector. Given that this is exactly the area Digital Innovators is operating in and we have students who are the target market for these learning opportunities this project was the perfect fit for one of our cohorts of students.

The project involved researching and analysing the websites of the WMCA and BCC as well as those of training providers. It also looked at their social media presence and marketing campaigns. It then attempted to try and better understand their market reach and communication strategies and to devise ways to improve the promotion of funded skills programmes for young people through better collaboration of all involved parties. 

This was basically a research project so employed the collaborative, communication and creative skills of students as well as testing their communication and presentation skills when delivering their findings. As well as presenting the results of this project to both BCC and the WMCA the students have gone on to present at board meetings at both of these organisations giving them valuable experience in working at this level.


All of the projects cited above are examples of the tasks you could be asked to do in existing roles on the job market – roles which require the digital skills we outlined earlier. Due to this real-world experience with employers, a number of the students have gone on to get jobs, either with the employers they have worked with or in other related areas.

Digital Innovators helped me gain confidence and discover my strengths. Without the Digital Innovators programme I never would have discovered Vanti.

Sharanjeet – Digital Innovators Skills Programme Graduate who secured full-time employment with Vanti.

If you are interested in developing your digital skills and gaining work experience with industry leaders so that you can stand out in an increasingly competitive job market – check out the Digital Innovators Skills Programme or join one of our weekly Taster Sessions.


[1] https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC106281/web-digcomp2.1pdf_(online).pdf

This article was written by Pete - Design & Technology Director

 

Employer Spotlight – Taran 3D

As part of the Digital Innovators Skills Programme, we work alongside some of the most innovative, creative and successful employers to allow young people to gain vital work experience and boost their employability.

A brilliant example of the employers we work with is Taran 3D – a 3D design consultancy which specialises in creating interactive experiences using immersive technologies.

We spoke to Taran Singh, Managing Director at Taran 3D, to find out more about the driving force behind the agency and to gain an insight into how they operate. We also discussed the key qualities sought after by employers as well as Taran’s opinion on the importance of digital skills in an increasingly competitive job market.


First things first – introduce yourself!

“We are a creative 3D Agency based in Birmingham that produces amazing interactive content for touchscreens and immersive technologies through our ever-evolving 3D, VR or AR capabilities.

Taran3D is built on an innovative team who enjoy collaborating with clients to create immersive experiences through interactive communication.

We work with a range of clients to engage their audiences by bringing their projects to life. We delve into their business to show how we can improve their output, usually in ways they would never think of. Digital creative storytelling is at the heart of what we do and we combine these skills with cutting edge technology to produce unique and compelling interactive content.

Our clients cover a range of industries including arts, manufacturing, IT, architecture, heritage, social enterprises and public bodies.

As a small business we have grown significantly over the past year, winning our first international clients as well as our first award (Outstanding Start Up Business of the Year in the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce Award Winners 2020).”

Can you explain some of the key job positions in your organisation?

“When I started Taran3D I wanted to build a company and team that is passionate about what we do whilst keeping a balanced work/life approach to ensure we get the best out of everyone.

Whilst I am the MD of the business there is no formal hierarchy at Taran3D – working with likeminded people has huge advantages and allows us to work seamlessly as a team that is respectful of each other’s roles.

During 2020 the team grew significantly with the addition of new developers, a business manager, an experienced teacher/trainer and a marketing consultant giving us more scope to help build the business. I also have mentors that provide me with their knowledge and insight, helping me to develop myself as an employer and creative.

Whilst the team grows, our core principles and approach stay the same of being a passionate, flexible, nurturing company that provides strong mentorship, career development and a thriving environment.”

What advice do you have for young people in search of work or looking to develop their career prospects during these uncertain times?

Training is key during these uncertain times. So, to stay ahead of the competition, we recommend immersing yourself in as many workshops, events, training sessions as possible to keep your knowledge up-to-date. Our region is a hotbed of digital innovation and there are events taking place each week (most for free) that young people can access and attend.

By getting involved in training, webinars and online events it’s a great opportunity to make connections and grow your community. Build yourself a solid network within the industry and put time into growing and developing those relationships.

In your opinion, what are the most valuable skills and qualities that are sought out by employers?

Enthusiasm, initiative, creativity and the willingness to learn new skills are key qualities we look out for.

If we find someone who always gives that bit extra to a project, that is the type of person we will remember and want to collaborate with again.

In our industry there can only be a certain amount of hand holding so we really like people that push themselves and can use their own initiative. Be it their way of thinking, how they approach a project or push their creative boundaries within their field of expertise. These people make a good impression and will always stick in our mind.”

What services do you offer young people and how can people access them?

“We work in partnership with some amazing organisations like Digital Innovators and Tin Smart Social to help support young people break into the industry. This can be through workshops, online tutorials or placement opportunities for students to work with us on live projects.

We are also a member of STEAMhouse, Birmingham’s centre for innovation and creation and are proud to collaborate with them on their VR Birmingham series. These insightful events offer anyone with an interest in VR & AR access to a selection of amazing industry experts who share their expertise and advice.

As a member of STEAMhouse we have been fortunate to have access to a whole world of support, mentorship, training and new connections. The support they have given Taran3D has been instrumental in where we are as a business today.”

How important are digital skills in the workplace and how do you think COVID-19 has impacted this in your sector?

“The lockdowns and lack of physical interaction has made us all more tuned into digital in some way. Most businesses throughout the pandemic have reacted to digital skills in some format, no matter what their industry. From selling online to webinars to zoom meetings – it’s touched everyone in some way and has paved the way for accepting a more digital approach in the future.

Digital is our life and we have always been 100% committed to investing in our skills as a team to ensure we keep up with the latest tech developments. Taran3D was set up to be a flexible working business so we were lucky that when the pandemic started it didn’t affect our working environments or our approach to work or winning new business.

Our innovative approach to research and development of immersive tech has been so important to where we are today as a brand. Areas that we were discussing years and years ago such as game design being used in commercial projects have come into everyday play in the industry and we have worked hard to stay ahead of the game and offer our clients the very best in immersive technology.

This is evident in our partnership with the Sikh Museum Initiative on the Anglo Sikh Virtual Museum, a touring virtual museum that allows the public to enjoy beautiful relics digitally reimagined. This is the perfect example of a project that works successfully online as much as in real life.”

Where can we find more information about Taran 3D?

“We regularly update our blog at www.tarad3d.com and you can follow us on social media @taran3d.”


Thank you, Taran, for taking the time to speak to us and offer such insightful information and advice!

Some of our students are currently working on a project with Taran 3D to create dynamic art for our community. During this project they are delving into skills such as augmented reality and 3D design using Blender, design thinking and digital marketing.

With every Skills Programme comes new collaborative projects for our students. Click here to find out more about the Digital Innovators Skills Programme, the employers we work with and the exciting projects and training you can take advantage of in order to kickstart you career.

This article was written by Bronia - Communications and Business Development Assistant.

Digital skills training – participant’s perspective: Unnati

We caught up with one of our Digital Innovators Skills Programme participants, Unnati. She tells us how she found the programme and what she was able to gain from the experience.

What were you doing before you started the programme?

I had recently graduated and was working part-time in retail.

How did you find out about the training?

I had received an email from my university’s Graduate Careers network with a link to the website and a brief description of the course structure. I looked on the website at the programme information and registered and got a call from Pete who explained a little bit more about what the training entailed.

Once you’d discovered the programme, what actually made you decide to join?

The main thing that made me join the training was the opportunity to gain new skills, as I love being able to constantly learn. The project management element allowed me to build on existing skills I had gained on my placement year and apply them to a different context.

What did you think of the training? How did it help you?

I really enjoyed the training. It helped me gain confidence as I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking and speak at the Birmingham Tech Week Event.

“It helped me build on my existing skills and I liked that there was a continued emphasis on applying the training to real life situations. This really helped me develop my skills in negotiation, something I had no experience in previously.”

Were there any barriers or obstacles you had to overcome?

I had to make sure that I did not rush parts of my speech as I have a tendency to talk fast so I made sure I overcame that before I had my final presentation.

What impact has the training had on your life?

The training has really improved my confidence which has had a positive impact on my life in general as well as in my abilities.

What are your plans for the future?

During the course, I learnt about how to use certain functions on Excel to deliver our final project and because of this, I am hoping to build my knowledge in Excel further as I think it’s a really useful platform.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing the training but wasn’t sure?

I would say it’s a great opportunity to build skills and confidence and would recommend it. The first few weeks are a great way to learn new things about yourself and the project is a great way to apply the skills and challenge yourself.

Towards the end of the programme, Unnati secured a new job as an E Learning and Publications Assistant at the NSPCC. Congratulations Unnati!

It’s never too late to start an apprenticeship…

Often when we think of apprenticeships, we think of 16-18 year olds leaving school and starting an apprenticeship in their desired field – typically in engineering, quantity surveying or something similar.

However, anyone over the age of 16 can apply for an apprenticeship and there is no upper age limit. So, there’s nothing stopping someone who is in their 20s, 30s, 40s or above from pursuing an apprenticeship! Anyway, who said there was a time limit on our development?


If I’ve already been to college and/or to university – can I still do an apprenticeship?

Yes – there is a range of levels which apply to apprenticeships. This means that people at all different capabilities can find a path which suits them.

For example, you can apply for a Level 2 apprenticeship which provides a qualification equivalent to GCSEs, or you can go up to a Level 6 or 7 apprenticeship which is the equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree. This means that if you already have A Levels or even a degree, you can get an apprenticeship in the same field by applying to a specific level.

If you already have a degree in biology, for example, you can apply to a masters-equivalent apprenticeship to develop further in this field. Alternatively, if you have finished your degree and want to switch fields, you can apply for any level apprenticeship in a new sector!

So, not only is age not a barrier when applying for apprenticeships, but neither is your experience or education. Depending on your areas of interest, desired level and career aspirations, there will be apprenticeship that will work for you – you just need to find it!

Did you know that between 2018 and 2020, one third of Digital Innovators Skills Programme students went on to secure apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships or traineeships? Find out how our Skills Programme can lead to an apprenticeship opportunity here.

Why should I consider an apprenticeship?

Now we’ve established that it’s never too late to start an apprenticeship, you may be thinking… should I do an apprenticeship?

Well, there are many other positive aspects associated with doing an apprenticeship…

  • You are able to learn and develop at a new skill whilst earning a consistent salary (which is the equivalent to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage depending on your age and location).
  • Apprenticeships revolve around hands-on experience – you will study for 20% of your working hours, meaning that more of your time is spent learning on the job.
  • Apprenticeship length can differ between 1 and 6 years.
  • Job security – whilst an apprentice, you are a contracted employee on a pay roll, who is entitled to paid holiday and bank holidays, etc.
  • Some employees will pay for you to complete a degree whilst doing your apprenticeship.
  • According to recent surveys, after finishing their apprenticeship as many as 85% of apprentices will stay in employment, with two-thirds (64%) remaining with the same employer.
  • And much more…

What’s next?

A good first step is to visit the official government website for apprenticeships here to find out more about how to become an apprenticeship, what’s on offer and discover apprentice success stories.

Additionally – from 8th-14th February, it is National Apprenticeship Week! So, keep an eye out for #NAW2021 on social media as there will be events, webinars and celebrations throughout the week to highlight the impact and advantages of apprenticeships. You might just find the right apprenticeship for you!

Subscribe to The Stride – Digital Innovators’ fortnightly fix of tips, techniques, advice and challenges for job seekers and career changers – direct to your inbox. We cover topics such as – job hunting during a global pandemic, how to make the perfect CV, how to combat feelings of self-doubt whilst unemployed, and much more.

This article was written by Bronia - Communications and Business Development Assistant.

Unemployed and lacking in self-confidence? Read on.

Being unemployed is scary, there’s no two ways about it. I’ve changed jobs countless times – but quitting or being let go, without another job in place, is nerve-racking and can feel overwhelming. Personally, those unemployed, uncertain times in my past have stuck with me. I’m soon to enter unemployment again (as I’m moving to another country) and I wanted to share how I’m overcoming the self-doubt and lack of purpose I’ve felt in the past. 


Lack of confidence and self belief 

What is the problem with this lack of self belief? This leads to me only sending off my CV if I can tick off 99.9% of the desired attributes on the job description…

Confidence is something we dive into in a lot more depth during the Digital Innovators Skills Programme but I want to touch on it here, specifically regarding applying for jobs. I often feel that if I can’t do everything on the job description then there’s no point in applying, because I’m clearly ‘not good enough’.

But the truth is, ‘The requirements listed in job descriptions are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You don’t have to satisfy every requirement or meet every qualification listed.’  If you feel you have a solid understanding of some of the attributes listed and that the role and company are a good match for you, then you should apply! After all…

84 percent of companies are willing to hire and train a candidate who lacks required skills.

Remember, soft skills like communication, adaptability and work ethic (highlighted in your CV and during your interview) will be taken into account alongside the practical skills you have previous experience in. From your soft skills, employers can gauge whether you have the right attitude and personality for the job as well as if they can train you further down the line. How else would we up-skill and develop our careers?

If you’ve convinced yourself a job is out of your league, consider that ‘data suggests that matching 50 percent of an ad’s requirements would be just as good as matching all of them’. Imposter syndrome affects all. However, the outcome of actually applying for the job will either be you get it or you don’t. If you don’t apply, you definitely won’t get it. So do yourself a favour and apply, you might be surprised by what you achieve.


Lack of purpose 

Why do I feel like this? Due to my uncertainty around the types of job roles I’d like to apply for…

When you lose your job, not only is your usual source of income gone, but also your personal work relationships, daily structures, and an important sense of self-purpose.

Leaving education or a job might enable you time to consider the vast array of other opportunities out there! But with this, for many of us, comes the realisation that you have no idea what you want to do next. You might feel passion and desire for something but can’t put your finger on exactly what it is. Thus, you begin to question your purpose. 

Whether you’re seventeen, thirty-five or sixty-eight, a change in circumstances can create anxiety around what exactly you’re ‘meant’ to be doing next. But there are key things to appreciate when you’re feeling this way…

Firstly, you may not know it yet, but this feeling of unknowing is telling you that something needs adjusting or something new needs to begin. Maybe your passions or priorities have changed. Maybe you’re ready to discover a new skill. Whatever it is, you’re on a path of discovery. So, try to see this stage as the start of something, rather than an uncomfortable ‘inbetweeny’ bit. 

Secondly, It’s cliche to say but it’s not just about the destination – finding your next job – it’s about the journey. It’s about learning about yourself during this downtime. It’s about trying different employers, job roles and salaries. It’s about work experience and personal projects. It’s about pushing yourself to enter situations that feel difficult, but coming out the other end having learnt and grown as a person. Those are the moments that will enable you to discover your purpose(s) – so try and embrace them whilst you’re taking this next step. 


You’ve got this!

Now, we’ve established that you don’t need to have a PHD, 6 years experience and 4 volunteer roles alongside your last 9-5 in order to feel confident when applying for jobs. In addition, it’s important to remember that the word ‘career’ actually encompasses the journey towards finding a job as well as the time you’re employed, you can begin to take the next stride towards your next career goal.

Make sure your CV is up to scratch by downloading our CV Tips Workbook here.

Subscribe to The Stride for job hunting tips and careers advice direct to your inbox.

This article was written by Liv.

Interview Insights – What did you do during lockdown?

Coronavirus has affected everyone in different ways – whether you are finishing college or university, working from home or unemployed and looking for work, or you are on furlough or have been made redundant – everyone has had to adapt to the current situation.

We’re now approaching the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK (where on earth has the time gone?) and are still experiencing heavy restrictions due to the new variant, and the circumstances we found ourselves in a year ago might have changed slightly. Perhaps you were on furlough initially and have now been made redundant, or you have now finished your studies and are struggling to find work as a direct result of the pandemic?

For many of you, the task of securing a job may be at the forefront of your mind. In light of this, we wanted to offer some advice on how you can tackle what we predict will become the most popular interview question of the decade… What did you do during lockdown?


So, what did you do during lockdown?

Before we delve into the ways in which you could answer this question, it’s important to note that it is completely understandable if you have struggled to find a job or have found it difficult to be productive 100% of the time during lockdown. We are living through completely unprecedented times and it can be very challenging to feel motivated whilst the world is scrambling to conquer an invisible virus.

That being said, employers will undoubtedly be interested to know how you spent your time during lockdown and what you were able to achieve from the confines of your home.

There are many ways you can answer this, depending on your circumstances and what your interests are.

  • If you were studying or working from home, talk about this and how you managed this. How did you structure your time? How did you communicate with others? How did you manage distractions or other priorities? What was the outcome of this?
  • If you have been searching for work, talk about this process and the ways in which you’ve tried to improve your prospects. Have you changed your methods of job hunting? Have you revamped your CV and cover letter layouts? How did you cope with setbacks?
  • Whilst unable to secure full-time employment, have you taken any online courses or taken part in online internships? Where there are gaps in your CV, there are numerous online courses you can take to develop your skills. For example, the Digital Innovators Skills Programme provides 3 weeks of skills development which allows you to harness employability and digital skills, which you are then able to apply in an 8-week work project with a local employer. Alternatively, you can find specific online courses on LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, Udemy, and more.
  • Rather than thinking directly about seeking work experience or external skills development opportunities, maybe you directed your energy towards your hobbies. Do you have a blog where you write about your interests? Do you have any hobbies? – are you a painter, a coder or do you play sports? How have you improved these during lockdown?
  • Maybe you took a completely different approach and dedicated yourself to helping the community during such a difficult time. Maybe you helped deliver shopping to the vulnerable or maybe you took part in some fundraising to help the NHS, charities or food banks? Or perhaps you helped out at home?

Task:

In light of this discussion, try to think of three ways you have dedicated time to improving and developing yourself – this might be professionally, academically, physically or mentally.

Once you have identified these, think about the skills you were able to practice with these actions, such as self motivation or problem solving, and how you would demonstrate these to an employer.

If you are struggling with this task, don’t worry. There is no deadline on self-improvement – you have plenty of time to reflect on these methods and see which works best for you.


Why is all of this important?

It is the aspect of trying to improve your prospects which is something that employers will hold in high regard. Employers are aware of the difficulties of job hunting, especially since the advent of coronavirus, so they will understand if there are significant gaps in your CV. However, they will be interested to see how you have tried to compensate for these gaps and how you have made use of your time in a way that shows or enhances some of your innate skills and strengths.

Whatever you have done during lockdown, there are undoubtedly some skills that you have developed, and these should be highlighted in your interview. Regardless of your methods of development – throughout the pandemic you will undoubtedly have been adaptable, resourceful and resilient. Employers seek out these core skills and they seek candidates who are creative, motivated and can use their initiative – so make sure you discuss how you were able to demonstrate them during the pandemic.

The point of this blog is to help you realise that there is never one right answer to an interview question, especially this one. The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult and if this question crops up in your next job interview, take it in your stride and talk honestly about your experience and the things you did to occupy, entertain and improve yourself, as well as the challenges you faced and what you did to overcome them. Employers, despite seeking out specific skills and experience, are almost always more interested in the qualities and attributes of the person they are speaking to.


Do you want more interview advice and job hunting tips? Subscribe to The Stride!

Packed with tips, techniques and inspiration to boost your CV and help you on your path to employment, our first two issues have already tackled tapping into creativity, developing essential work skills and techniques for taking 2021 in your stride. 

To subscribe to The Stride and receive career tips and free downloadable resources direct to your inbox, click here

Fear you’ve missing out? Catch up with Issue One and Issue Two now.