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.

My Kickstart Experience

Recently heard about the Kickstart Scheme? Not quite sure what it is or why you should be interested in it? Well, Hannah, Business Development Administrator at Digital Innovators recently went through the Kickstart Scheme and is here to shed some light on how it all works…

What is Kickstart?

Kickstart is a scheme that provides funding to employers to create roles in their company specifically for 16-24 year olds who are in receipt of Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. The government will fully fund the position for a duration of 6 months by providing the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week (which an employer can choose to top up).

The Kickstart scheme is a great way for young people to take the first step into a career, develop their skills and gain more experience. In addition, each employer who takes on employees through Kickstart is required to help them become more employable. Therefore, if you were to apply for a Kickstart role, your new employer will help you in a variety of ways, including: looking for long term work, career advice, CV & interview practice, provide any additional training, developing skills and boosting confidence in a real working environment.

So, what’s in it for you and why should you consider applying for a Kickstart role?

· A Kickstart role could provide the perfect opportunity for you to take your first step into the working world.

· Kickstart roles are specifically designed for young people with limited work experience, so there are no formal entry requirements for them (only that you are between the ages of 16-24 and are claiming Universal Credit).

· It’s a great way to see if you like working in a specific role or industry, without the commitment!

· Employers will offer training and development opportunities for you so that you can develop your skills whilst in the role, as well as improve your employability for the future.

· Of course, another bonus is that you will be able to earn some money for the duration of the 6-month contract!

· Once your contract has finished, not only will you feel like you are in a stronger position when applying for jobs in the future, but you could potentially be kept on by your employer.

Sounds great! But how do I apply?

Applying for a Kickstart job is simple, there a just a few things you need to sort out first!

1. In order to apply for a Kickstart vacancy, you need to be in receipt of Universal Credit. So, if you aren’t already in receipt of this, that is the first step you should take.

2. After you have completed step one, you should have been put in contact with a Work Coach by the Job Centre. Talk to your Work Coach about Kickstart vacancies and express your interest in applying, they will then be able to suggest a vacancy to you that you may like to apply for, or you could ask them about specific roles/industries you may be interested in.

Many of our employer contacts are interested in employing Digital Innovators graduates through Kickstart. As a member of the DI Collective, we know your capabilities and career interests. So, whenever a Kickstart vacancy becomes available with one of our employer contacts which is suited to you, we will notify you of it. Then, you can ask your Work Coach to refer you to it.

3. Your Work Coach will then make a referral which will allow you to complete an application for the role. Once you have applied, the employer will then be able to follow their normal recruitment process, which will most likely include an interview.

4. Should you be successful, it is then over to the employer to onboard you and set you up as an official Kickstart employee!

So, that’s a round-up of the Kickstart Scheme! For more information about the scheme, click here and here.

Ready to kickstart your career with a 6-month placement? Get in touch and join the DI Collective to be informed of new vacancies with our employer contacts!

What skills do employers really want?

It seems these days that hardly a week goes by without another report being published telling us about the skills needed by employers to drive the innovation required for a thriving economy.

Today Kingston University added to this list of reports by publishing the results of a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 employers. You can download the report here.

According to the Kingston/YouGov survey the top 10 skills for innovation, identified by more than half the employers sampled, are:

  1. Problem solving (77%)
  2. Communication skills (66%)
  3. Critical thinking (64%)
  4. Digital skills (64%)
  5. Analytical skills (63%)
  6. Initiative (62%)
  7. Adaptability (60%)
  8. Creativity (56%)
  9. Ability to build relationships (55%)
  10. A questioning mindset (55%)

For the team at Digital Innovators it is really pleasing to see that the skills listed in this report are those that we aim to develop as part of our Digital Innovators Skills Programme (and have been doing for the last 4 years). Skills such as collaboration, communications, critical thinking and creativity, which we refer to as the 4 C’s, are core to what we do on our programme.

Another report from October 2020, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), lists a different, but overlapping, set of skills which it claims are “the top 10 job skills of tomorrow.” These are:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem solving and ideation

An important outcome of the WEF report is that the vast majority of business leaders (94%) now expect employees to pick up new skills on the job – a rise from 65% in 2018. So, not only do the skills needed by employers vary depending on which report you read, but many employers expect these to be picked up rather than taught.

We are very much in favour of “learning by doing” at Digital Innovators, and this is something that is integral to our skills programmes. However, we believe this needs to be done within a learning framework whereby the required skills are first identified, then developed further through a mixture of hands-on practice and reflection techniques.

Psychologists have shown that using reflection helps people to not only learn but also to acquire the skills we need throughout life. New neuroscience research also shows that reflection has many other benefits, including helping us make decisions about how, what, and when to study.

Learning by doing and reflection are both great techniques to adopt in order to develop the skills desired by employers. However, these techniques alone will not be sufficient to address the skills shortage we currently face. We must recognise that creative skills as well as STEM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills need to be taught as part of a cohesive learning package rather than separately.

To put it another way, creativity is not just something that gets ‘taught’ in an art class. Creativity (as well as problem solving, critical thinking and many of the other skills listed above) should be considered as integral to a well-rounded education, whether specialising in the arts, the sciences, or something completely different.

Art and creativity are not interchangeable words. Of course, artists need to be creative but so do scientists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. In all of these roles, one needs to be able to apply creative skills, frameworks and techniques to address some of the most frustrating questions and wicked problems of our time.

If we are to move forward and create a fairer and more equitable world, as well as a future workforce with the skills to innovate and boost our economy, we need to remove the stigmas behind certain skills only being applicable to specific industries. We need to move towards an infrastructure which regards the skills listed above as multi-disciplinary, and recognises the importance of providing frameworks to develop them.

If any of the employers and business leaders who contributed to the Kingston University report would like to get in touch to discuss what Digital Innovators are doing to develop the skills listed in the aforementioned reports, please reach out to us here.

Are you an employer in need of innovative, creative individuals to boost your workforce? Click here to find information about receiving funding for 6-month work placements through the Kickstart Scheme or get in touch here.

This article was written by Pete - Design and Technology Director

Digital Networking

What is Digital Networking?

Digital networking is effectively taking the action of meeting new people, online. One of the best ways to do this is using certain social media sites – but even if you’re not keen on social media, there are still ways to network online.

So, how do I network online?

There are plenty of resources and articles around this topic available online, but here are some of the key tips to get you started.

Build your online presence

Many businesses and organisations have an online presence – whether this be on social media sites such as LinkedIn or via blogging platforms or websites. This provides space for people to connect and share information with others, as well as improving brand awareness.

With more than 675 million members, LinkedIn is becoming increasingly prevalent in the professional world and brilliant way to get started building your online network. You can use this platform to showcase your skills, experience and interests (much like an online CV) as well as engage with your online connections and leaders in your industry. Setting up an account is free and there are lots of videos and guides online to help you set your profile up.

LinkedIn is all about business connections and it’s not unusual to request to connect with someone you haven’t spoken to or met before. People are far more likely to connect if you send them a personal note – in the same way that a CV with a covering letter is more likely to be read. Something as simple as ‘I’m interested in knowing more about your industry and the work you do and would love to connect’ will often suffice – but even better if you can reference a piece of work they have done or an article they have written.

Develop relationships

Build your presence by interacting with your connections and potential new connections, as well as by engaging on other social media such as Twitter, Instagram or Clubhouse. Twitter, for example, is used by professionals across many industries including tech, journalism, politics, and more.

Sharing some personal content with your networks will build relationships but keep in mind that this is about developing your career – a private account might be better for sharing content you’d prefer not to share with a future employer.

Not sure what to share? Have a look at the profiles of people in the sort of roles you’re interested in. What are they sharing? You’ll probably find a mix of personal and professional. A good way to start is by finding articles or statistics that you have found interesting and sharing them with a comment – or resharing content from another contact with a note about what you like about the post or why you think people will be interested.

Contribute to the conversation

Get involved. As you are developing your online presence and growing your network, position yourself online so that you can be part of the conversation. Wherever the conversations are being held, try to be there too, with valuable comments or appreciation of what’s already being said. This is more likely to make people want to reciprocate your interaction and take notice of you.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Follow relevant pages, people and newsletters
  • Stay up to date with your industry or job roles that sound interesting
  • Reply to or comment on people’s posts and articles – even seasoned professionals welcome feedback, shares or comments that show they’re reaching people
  • Offer your insight on topics you’re interested in
  • Share valuable resources and information you spot – and tag the original source to show appreciation and increase engagement

Not keen on social media?

While sites such as LinkedIn can be great for online networking, you can still engage with companies and individuals online outside of social media. Search for free events and webinars on sites such as Eventbrite or visit the websites of companies you’re interested in to see what events they’re running.

Take part in conversations during events and follow-up with the event hosts afterwards. Keep a note of the people you meet and where you met them. Many blogging sites allow you to add comments to the end of articles which is another way of getting your voice heard. Why not start by telling us what you think of this article in the comments section below?

Maintaining momentum

As you grow in your professional life, your network will continue to grow too – and is likely to change over the years as you branch into different roles and sectors and your connections and relationships will require some nurturing over time.

Keep in mind that networking is essentially about meeting people and making connections. Some will be people you will learn from, some may offer you opportunities, and for others, you will be the one providing support or opportunities.

At Digital Innovators, we teach our students the importance of networking and building meaningful relationships in their professional life. In our experience, the most valuable networks are those built on strong communication and collaboration. Through our skills training, we prioritise these skills which our students practice with their peers and with employers during their live business projects. Find out more about our programmes here.

You can find some more useful information on networking here.

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

DI Discussions

Are we missing out on great talent?

The first impression of a job applicant often comes through their CV – assuming, of course, the employer or recruiter sifts through applications themselves, and not with the help of CV screening software.

The use of CV screening software, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), is incredibly common, especially within large-scale businesses as well as recruitment agencies, mid-size organisations and even some small businesses. This means that applicants’ CVs and accompanying documents are filtered before landing in the hands of their potential employer.

Research shows that the average job opening attracts 250 applicants and up to 88% of them are considered unqualified, meaning it would take hours – if not days – to review these manually, with only a small quantity actually proving relevant to the role. (1)

These systems are designed and used to make the recruitment process more efficient and can ultimately save time by filtering out “irrelevant” applications by setting a number of criteria and requirements for applicants’ CVs, applications, and cover letters to meet.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that so many organisations have moved towards CV screening software to streamline their recruitment process, including more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies. (2)

But what are the potential issues associated with using CV screening software?

Whilst this system definitely has it benefits for businesses looking to recruit new talent, it also has its downfalls.

This process measures applications based on quantitative characteristics – such as grades, experience and relevant keywords. Many applicants have become savvy to the systems in place and often litter their applications with buzzwords to get through the initial screening, even if they don’t apply to them, meaning that “irrelevant” or unqualified applicants can pass through the system – possibly in the place of those who actually are qualified, but didn’t organise their application in a way that meets the software’s requirements.

By prioritising these quantitative characteristics, this process also fails to recognise the qualities of the person behind the paper. Even if someone has 5-10 years of experience in a certain sector or role, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good at it or have the right interpersonal skills to work well within your organisation or within that specific role.

Whilst one applicant might have 7 years’ experience and a masters in a relevant field, someone with less experience and a lower level of education could have skills which are better suited to the role at hand, which the former applicant does not. However, this more suitable candidate could easily be missed due to the prioritisation of efficiency and time-keeping.

Research by Schmidt and Hunter suggests that only 16% of a person’s future success can be predicted by the jobs they’ve held in the past, whilst if you know someone’s personality, their potential success within your company is 2.5x more predictive than relying solely on their CV. (3) Thus, relying on keywords and buzzwords to filter CVs based on relevancy (in terms of past experience and education) to the role might work against the desired outcome of finding someone perfect for the role.

So, how do we make sure we recruit the right people on to our teams?

We need to ensure that our workforces are filled with the right people with the right skills – especially as we navigate an ongoing skills shortage.

The research cited in this discussion suggests that employers and recruiters need to think carefully about which process works best for them and what steps can be taken to prevent these brilliant potential employees from falling through the cracks. After all, organisations are built by the people within them, so it is essential to have the right people on our teams.

Often, great employees do not come to a company as a ready-made, full package. Usually, they come full of potential and an eagerness to develop and learn. So, how do we recognise this in our recruitment process without compromising efficiency? If we accept there is a role for ATS’s, what can we, as employers and educators, do to help candidates navigate these systems successfully and authentically? And what other processes could we adopt to attract a more diverse workforce that will help us build effective teams that can bring challenge as well as momentum to our organisations?

Clearly the CV is only one element of recruitment, but as it’s often the first foot in the door, it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure candidates are given the best chance to tell their story and employers the opportunity to spot the right talent for their business.




Employer’s Perspective

What do employers look for on applicants’ CVs?

CVs can be really tricky to get right. Every employer and organisation has a different method of sorting through CVs and depending on the job description, they will be looking for different things in each application.

To get an insight into the mind of an employer when it comes to looking at CVs, we spoke to Mick Westman, CEO and Founder of Digital Innovators.

What three things do you look for when reviewing applicants’ CVs?

Personality. When I’m looking at applications, I’m trying to see the person behind the CV. So, I look for for anything in a CV that can give me an insight into who they are and the type of person they are. After all, we employ people not pieces of paper.”

“I’m usually drawn to a CV which stands out visually. This doesn’t mean it needs to be a creative CV, but one that hasn’t followed a conventional format. This links back to my search for the applicant’s personality, which can be reflected in the format of their CV.”

“Whilst reading CVs, I’m looking for that “wow” moment. What makes this person’s CV stand out from all the others I have read? What unique experience do they have which I wouldn’t have seen before? What is the one thing on their CV which will make me interested to learn more about them?”

What makes you put down a CV before finishing it?

“One thing which is likely to make me put down a CV before finishing it is using too many buzzwords. Whilst it is great to demonstrate your suitability for the role, using too many buzzwords means that your individuality is lost.”

Understandably, this is a Catch 22. Whilst buzzwords make it hard to stand out from other applicants, many organisations (particularly large companies) use computer systems to sift through CVs using buzzwords. This makes sure that the “relevant” CVs are narrowed down for the final selection process.

So, our tip would be – do your research. Larger, more corporate organisations will often use these CV processing systems and probably focus more on experience and qualifications – which can be indicated using buzzwords. However, SMEs and start-ups with smaller workforces – such as Digital Innovators – are more likely to prioritise the person behind the application, and buzzwords might not be the best way to appeal to them. Therefore, you can adapt your approach to the type of organisation you’re applying for.

What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to CVs and applications in general?

“When it comes to applications and CVs, one of the most important things is providing real, tangible evidence of your skills. If you’re putting down your skills in reference to a job, make sure you back it up with when and where you developed this and how you were able to demonstrate this.”

The idea of having tangible work experience to include as evidence on your CV is something we really believe in at Digital Innovators as we know that lacking this can be a barrier to securing employment. How many times have you heard that a “more experienced” candidate has secured the role you really wanted?

So, to combat this we established the Digital Innovators Skills Programmes which, in addition to developing the core skills which employers tell us they want in their employees, provides young people with real-life work experience with leading employers in the West Midlands.

“In addition to this, any recommendations or comments from previous employers go a very long way. These provide further evidence of your skills and attributes listed on your CV as what you’ve said has been backed up with the word of a reputable employer.”

So, there you have it – an insight into an employer’s thoughts when looking at CVs.

For more tips and tricks on CV writing, job applications and more, check out our previous issues of The Stride. To find out how you can gain work experience evidence for your CV by working with leading employers in the region, have a look at the Digital Innovators Skills Programme.

Is this job right for me?

Applications are a two-way street

When we’re applying for jobs, we often fixate on how we can prove that we are the most suitable candidate for the job we’re applying for, which of course, is good practice. However, whilst we put all our energy into doing so, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we need to make sure that the job is also suitable for us.

So, how can we figure this out?

It’s quite difficult to tell if a job is right for you, especially before you have even landed the role. The key stage to figure this out is during the interview process. This is your chance to speak to your potential colleagues and gauge how well you could work together and how you might fit into the organisation.

Ask questions about the job based on what is important to you. If socialising with your colleagues is a must, you can ask questions about the work/office culture in that organisation. If you’re more of an independent worker, you can discuss the company’s expectations around collaboration and team outputs. Do the values of the organisation align with your own? Does the proposed salary meet your expectations and reflect your experience?

Workplace preferences and requirements are incredibly important to overall job satisfaction and are something which we prioritise on the Digital Innovators Skills Programme. Before assigning our students to a work project or beginning our skills training, we conduct a Career-Fit Assessment to find out which project will suit them most. This assessment calculates the students’ career interests and their personal work needs and combines these to form a list of career recommendations – which we can then use to make sure our programme will compliment their needs and skills!

I have an interview coming up, what shall I do to prepare?

Think about what is important to you in a job role, and plan some questions around this to cover in the interview process or to email your potential employer. 

Don’t be put off asking these questions for fear that this may lead to a rejection. In the majority of cases, your employer will view this as you being enthusiastic and proactive. It is also part of their responsibility to make sure their employees are happy! However, if your questions aren’t met with the greatest response, you should probably rethink whether that is the type of organisation you would want to work for anyway.

At the end of the day, everyone has different needs when it comes to their work. So, take care to think through your applications in line with what will make you happy and fulfilled in your next role!

For more advice on important factors to consider when deciding whether an organisation or job role are right for you, check out this The Balanced Careers article here.

Interested in our Career-Fit Assessment? Find out more about the Digital Innovators Skills Programme and how this assessment helps our DI students during and after their time with us.

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

Not sure where to start with your CV?

5 tips for CV writing!

A CV provides an overview of a candidate’s education, work experience and skills, and is often your chance to make a first impression with an employer. So, there is no doubt regarding the importance of having a good CV when applying for jobs.

But where do you start? It can be tricky for young people coming out of education to write a CV that stands out among hundreds – if not thousands – of others. Not to worry, Digital Innovators are here to help.

As an 18-year-old who has recently finished education and entered the world of work, I am here to share some of my experiences of how I approached writing CVs – and some top tips with how you can write a great first CV! I also asked a GCSE student what they would like to know about this topic, so with these two things in mind, I will be discussing 5 main areas:  

1: Experience 

When I was at college, I remember lots of students feeling unsure of what to mention in their CV due to having little or no work experience. It’s easy to get your thoughts stuck in the loop of worrying, “How do I get experience, when I need experience to get a job?!” However, you may have much more to include than you think!  

Let’s start with the obvious – grades. It’s a good idea to include all of your grades and qualifications in one section of your CV. This will make it really easy for potential employers to quickly see the all results you have received during your time in education.  

However, grades aren’t the only thing that count towards your experience. You could also talk about extra–curricular activities you have been a part of, maybe you were part of a student society or programme, or perhaps you were a student councillor. It’s easy for students to forget about this aspect of their school careers because it is often assumed that companies only want to know about your grades and business knowledge, but this isn’t always the case! These kinds of things are great experiences to help your CV to stand out as you can show your commitment and dedication, and that you’re able to work with others and manage your time alongside your school timetable.  

A personal example I have is from my CV last year: I was studying A-Levels, and alongside that, I was part of a dance group with my college. This was a really great experience for me to talk about in my CV as I could show recruiters that I have been able to develop skills (such as team work, communication, time management and organisation) outside of a classroom.  

2: Achievements 

Here is your chance to talk about all of the things you may have done or taken part in that will make you stand out. You could include projects or awards, which should be linked to the experience you have. For instance, when talking about a class you did at school or college, you may then go on to discuss achievements as part of that.

This is your opportunity to highlight the skills you have developed through specific experiences – you could mention any commendations you have received as a result of a project or presentation, or maybe this achievement relates to your extracurricular sporting activities such as a football tournament.

3: Skills 

You may not have much (or perhaps any) real-world work experience or industry knowledge yet, but you will definitely have some skills that can be transferred into a working environment, so don’t forget to include these in your CV! 

Have a think about what each of your lessons or courses have taught you. Some examples could include: working in a team or independently, meeting deadlines, effective communication, organisation, presentation skills, etc. (Remember to give specific examples of when you demonstrated these skills) 

At Digital Innovators, we focus on developing these transferrable skills in young people as these are the skills that employers tell us they want to see in their applicants! It’s great to cite your academic achievements, but it is these interpersonal, workplace skills which are essential to employers, so that’s what we teach on the Digital Innovators Skills Programme.

The average employer spends between 10-30 seconds looking at a CV. How will you make yours stand out?

Similar to grouping all of your grades together, having a list of your main skills makes it easy for the recruiter to see how you’re suitable for the role, team, and company.

Make it easy for them pick out the important information! CVs that are just full of big paragraphs of text are not likely to be read properly. So, ensure that your amazing achievements and skills aren’t missed.  

4: Format 

This leads us nicely into how to format an eye-catching CV. The layout of your CV is very important, and this is sometimes the area people make mistakes with, which could cost them a job opportunity. So, here’s a few things you need to know about formatting your CV: 

  • Font – you should use a clear font that’s easy to read and of an appropriate size.  
  • Length – I have found that the most appropriate length for a CV is a maximum of 2 pages (or 2 sides of A4). This is really important to remember, because around half of all CVs that are longer than 2 pages are discarded by recruiters!  
  • Organisation – one of common mistakes people make when writing their CV is writing massive paragraphs. Bullet pointing is a much better method, making it easier to pick out key information.
  • Contact details – including your contact details so that it’s easy to get back in touch with you, but make sure your email address is professional sounding.
  • Chronological order – put your academic, professional and extracurricular experience in chronological order. Note – you don’t need to include everything you’ve ever done in your CV, keep it relevant to the job you’re applying for!

5: Submitting applications 

Finally, let’s talk about tailoring your CV for different roles you may apply for. After reading a job description or advert, you can ensure you include clear examples in your CV that link to the responsibilities and desirable criteria for the new role. You could use language (but not whole sentences) from the job criteria listed by the organisation, so that employers know that you would be a good fit for the position and have read the job description thoroughly.  

My top tip is to keep a record of different versions of your CV you have sent out for different job applications, and work from these for new applications – making sure you read it through thoroughly before submitting.

So, there you have it! Hannah’s top tips for writing CVs…

If you would like some more help writing your CV, check out our CV guide on our Downloadable Resource Hub.

If it’s help with what to put on your CV you’re looking for, check out the Digital Innovators Skills Programme. Through a combination of skills training and an 8-week work experience placement with leading employers, our students have been able to make their CV stand out and even land a job! Read Unnati’s story here.

This article was written by Hannah - Business Development Administrator

Solihull College & University Centre – Digital Innovators Project Updates

Our students at Solihull College & University Centre are knuckling down with their projects and are making incredible progress. In light of this, we decided to catch up with some of our students and see how they were getting on with our Skills Programme and their employer projects. 

There are currently a broad spectrum of projects underway, from designing and creating an app with Touchwood Solihull to working with augmented reality with Taran 3D.  Let’s hear from some of our students and learn more about their projects…

West Midlands Police Project

Eve and Hannah are both working on a project with West Midlands Police. Their objective is to obtain the youth’s perception of the Police in the Solihull borough. Through their research, Eve and Hannah need to find out the opinions of young people in the area, if any young people in Solihull have ever had dealings with the police and what their experience was like, or what this has taught them. 

In order to reach the audience that the Police want to learn more about, the team have begun developing videos for use on social media platforms. So far, they have created five prototypes created for use on TikTok and Snapchat.

So, what do Hannah and Eve think of the programme so far? 

“Throughout the course I have grown in confidence and had experience I never would of imagined having at my age. I have gained new knowledge and developed new skills over my project work. I’ve been given great advice from the members of Digital Innovators, and I am very thankful for the help they have given me. I feel prepared to take a step into the work industry that I wouldn’t of had without the course.” – Eve.

“I’ve found the Digital Innovators course to be very helpful so far. It has given me more confidence and encouraged me to speak up more.”  – Hannah.

BNP Paribas Personal Finance Project

Jai is working on a project with BNP Paribas Personal Finance to come up with ways to attract new employees and fresh talent into the business. 

Jai and the BNP Paribas Personal Finance Project team are considering the very real dilemma that many businesses are experiencing following the consequences of the pandemic. How can they promote future job vacancies that will require some or most of home working?

At the moment, the team are carefully considering the personal, technical and economic issues that could arise as a result of remote working. 

What do you make of the progamme, Jai?

“Working with Digital Innovators has allowed me to gain new skills while also building up my confidence through presentations and speaking to large groups.” – Jai.

More project updates…

In addition to these projects, our students are working with a range of employers in different sectors. These include…

  • Working with The Member’s Agency to reimagine and restructure the current website, and to evaluate and construct the company’s social media platforms. 
  • Creating a Digital Innovators app, which allows for the storage of individuals portfolio’s and also easy access to Digital Innovators materials. 
  • Collaborating with Birmingham Parks to showcase all of the opportunities that are available and all of the different jobs online within the green sector. They also want to increase engagement with the community. 

And many more!

Like the sound of these projects? Wondering what you could achieve if you had the chance? Click here to find out more about the Digital Innovators Skills Programme, our fully-funded skills programme for those aged 18+ in the West Midlands, which includes an 8-week work project with leading employers.

Are you a business with a challenge which needs addressing? Do you have a project in mind? Get in touch to find out how we can help you with this via info@digitalinnovators.co.uk.

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

Beginning your journey into web design

If you’re thinking about developing your passion into a business venture, or a vessel through which you can express your interest and demonstrate your knowledge and/or abilities, you might be thinking about setting up a website.

This is a good place to start, and our Content Guru and Communications Assistant, Liv, has some advice on beginning your journey into web design.

I’ve had a website since I was 17. It started off as a free WordPress blog for the first few years, with many changes to the domain and themes as my ideas developed. Then I invested in a WordPress business plan and website builder and have since used it for a freelance business, a temporary e-commerce store and now, seven years on from it’s initial set up, my portfolio. 

We go over the basics of web design in our Skills Programme and I think it’s really important to learn before diving in and starting up your own website. Websites are an investment of time – and sometimes money – and there will be technical roadblocks along the way. It’s good to be able to understand what some of these are and how to get through them so you don’t end up in a hot, flustered mess and eventually give up (or for at least a few months before plucking up the courage to give it another go). Understanding a bit of the jargon and platform basics from day one will stand you in good stead for the rest of this journey.   

Alongside this initial learning, I think it’s important to do your research into which platform you’re going to use and what the limitations are with each payment plan they offer. Choosing the free option is a great way to start – especially if you’re just looking to learn and to get a feel for web building and designing. However, free plans do have limitations and if you’re setting up an e-commerce business for example, you might encounter these quite quickly. So, do your research and definitely read and watch a lot of reviews based specifically on the type of website you’re setting up. This could be a blog, an e-commerce website, a portfolio and you will need to determine the best host for that type of website and which plan you’ll need. 

With a hosting platform in mind, it’s time to get some inspiration. We spend a lot of time on other peoples websites without consciously taking note of the design elements, or our likes and dislikes about a page’s features. Start writing these things down and bookmark the sites that you love, as well as those you don’t love so you can begin to narrow down what you want your own site to look like. Head to Pinterest and pin colour combinations and fonts you like the look of. Take a look at some free stock photography sites and download images that you like – what do they have in common? Are they dark and moody? Colourful and bold? Light and airy? Noticing trends in the things you like will help you begin to break down what it is you want your site and brand to look like. 

I also follow a few web designers on social media. It’s great to see what they’re producing for clients as well as looking at website templates to get inspiration from. Do remember though, this is your website. Draw inspiration – but don’t copy (unless it’s a template that your host offers or you’re buying from a designer). It’s important that your site reflects you and your business so don’t obsess over trends or someone else’s work because these inconsistencies will be reflected in your brand and site. Be confident in your vibe, style and your vision. 

You can find out more about our fully-funded Skills Programme here – including how our students use the digital skills they’ve learnt on our programme to deliver high-quality projects over the course of 8 weeks with leading employers.

Or you can click here to download our Information Pack.

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

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.