Welcome to the team, Bronia!

A very warm welcome to Bronia Hennessy, who has joined the Digital Innovators team.

Bronia is a recent graduate from Birmingham who is joining us a Communications and Business Development Assistant. With an interest in all things creative as well as in helping young people, Bronia will be developing our approach to expanding Digital Innovators. Here’s what Bronia said about joining Digital Innovators…

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining the team at Digital Innovators as their Communications and Business Development Assistant!

I am an all-round creative, so this role appeals directly to my creative instincts, as well as my interest in improving opportunities for young people in our local communities.

I realised at a young age that I did not have access to the same opportunities as some of my peers. This realisation became clearer once I began to attend a red-brick university. In my own development, I have been fortunate enough to benefit from programmes and schemes such as those run by Digital Innovators. I believe they gave me the boost I needed in order to succeed.  

As a product of initiatives designed to help young people in the region kickstart their careers, I am now very passionate about helping other young people in the region reach their full potential and get a head start on the career path.”

Exciting times ahead for Digital Innovators

Digital Innovators Founder, Mick Westman, said: “it’s wonderful to hear such encouraging words from Bronia. We feel very fortunate to employ such a passionate and motivated team who clearly want to help us and support more young people to unlock their full potential”.

Find out more about our funded Skills Programme for young people in the West Midlands.

Digital Innovators students start work with Vanti

Students on the Digital Innovators Skills Programme are gaining live work experience thanks to a partnership project with built environment technology specialists, Vanti. The team will be carrying out vital research for Vanti’s Kahu, a suite of smart technology products designed to support a flexible modern workplace. 

We caught up with James Garrington from Vanti for the low down on what our students will be working on…

Tell us more about Kahu

Over the past few months people within Vanti have been working on market research for Kahu, a collection of smart technology products we’re developing to help our clients create a flexible, productive, and efficient workplace. Kahu allows organisations to manage their workplace in one system, including booking meeting rooms, desk space and providing a customer check-in service, as well as analysing team resources.

What will our students be doing for Vanti? 

The students will be taking on an eight-week market research project. This will see them start by throwing the net far and wide to capture as much information as possible, before feeding back and working collaboratively with us to establish where to focus their efforts. In the final weeks of the project, research concludes and the students will write their findings into a report, as well as deliver a presentation.  

“For the students, this is an amazing opportunity to influence the development of a product that will be used in cutting-edge smart buildings in major cities.” 

James Garrington, Vanti

Market research is an enormous and extremely important task, especially when trying to make it exhaustive enough to cover all bases, and unfortunately (or fortunately we should say) with project and client work heating up we quickly realised we didn’t have the capacity to complete this task to the standard it demands.  

This is why we’re delighted your team of students at Digital Innovators have pitched in – and we’re thrilled to give them all an opportunity to gain vital work experience so it’s a win-win all round.

With support from the Digital Innovators mentors, we will encourage the students to approach the task with as much creativity as possible so they can get stuck in and develop lots of new skills. 

How will this help you and Digital Innovators’ students? 

The students’ final report will be incredibly important for Vanti. As we start rolling Kahu out to more and more clients, having in-depth research will be vital when pitching and selling, deciding price points, as well as deciding areas to develop into. 

For the students, this is an amazing opportunity to influence the development of a product that will be used in cutting-edge smart buildings in major cities. 

We’re thrilled to be working with such a forward-thinking company. To find out more about Vanti, visit their website

The Importance of Perspective

The sinking of the Titanic was a god-sent for the kitchen’s lobsters.

I have always been one to wade into a debate. With friends, family or with a stranger at the local, the engagement and passion that comes with the territory has always driven me. Yet I am still a guilty party by failing to gain the perspective of others. Truthfully, this has cost me in the past- as it has many of people, I am sure- through failing to come to a sensible conclusion or in the worst of circumstances impact upon relationships.  

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  

Carl jung

As a global society, many of us share similar views. Whether this be rallying behind a social cause or your local team, we join together in many ways in order to gain momentum. Yet, we all have our own reasoning and experiences that have founded this view. Our perspectives of reality are unique. Our reality is not the only one to exist- so why do we approach our lives as if it is? Our individual experiences are understood within the perspective in which they are viewed, we are all guilty of acknowledging only what our perspective allows us to see. Change this perspective and we change the interpretations of events within our own life.  

The impact this has upon our capabilities to problem-solve cannot be emphasised enough. Through taking on an opposite’s cognitive and affective perspectives, we can begin to understand how the individual will react to a proposition emotionally. Failure to take this perspective not only impacts on the effectiveness of the conversation but also limits our understanding of the issue.  

“Judge not, for you would do the same if you were in that position”

Abrham lincoln

Within the Digital Innovators program this is a value that we instil into our students. The demand for our workforce to be able to critically think is forever growing- yet our young people often lack the opportunity within formal education to truly understand all sides of an issue and accurately assess their validity and relative merits. I often discuss topics with young people in which they have been dictated a viewpoint, yet have never questioned. Our collective failure in teaching the importance of perspective not only causes societal stagnation but also impacts our abilities to think creatively and develop solutions which maximise joint outcomes.  

The result of bestowing this skill onto young people can be seen through the students that graduate from the Digital Innovators program. Young people that are capable of taking on their opposite’s cognitive perspective and develop solutions empathetically, effectively and confidently.  

Digital Innovators is crowned Solihull Business of the Year 2020!

Digital Innovators scooped two prestigious wins at the Solihull Chamber of Commerce Awards last night – Outstanding Small Business of the Year and the top prize – Solihull Business of the Year 2020.

With the team all watching the live stream together via MS Teams, there were chaotic scenes when our Founder and CEO, Mick Westman, had to abandon his post to answer the door to Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive, Paul Faulkner, as he arrived unannounced to present the Business of the Year trophy.

Mick Westman, CEO of Digital Innovators, said: “We are genuinely shocked and absolutely delighted to win two such prestigious awards – particularly considering the high calibre of the other finalists. 2020 has been challenging for us all – at Digital Innovators, we’ve had to completely change how we work so that young people continue to benefit from our skills programme despite the limitations caused by lockdown and social distancing.

“Winning this accolade is very much a team effort – not just by our core team, but made possible by the incredible support we have from partners and wider supporters. Most of all I would like to thank our past and current students – their feedback and success is what drives us forward and what makes us determined to grow. There is so much potential in young people across our region and we are privileged to be in a position to help them achieve their goals.”

Digital Innovators showed a strong and clear vision, creating positive impacts for the local economy and the individuals they work with”

Helen Bates, chair of the judging panel

Helen Bates, chair of the judging panel for the awards, said: “Digital Innovators showed a strong and clear vision, creating positive impacts for the local economy and the individuals they work with, as well as being a profitable business.

“Digital Innovators has grown in recent years to support over 500 young people aged 14 to 25, many of whom are not in education, employment or training, helping them achieve their potential by tapping into their innate digital skills and providing alternative pathways to employment.  They work in partnership with local businesses creating highly employable young people who are sought after by employers.”

Digital Innovators’ junior project manager, Chris Kennedy, was also a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year category so there was plenty for the whole team to celebrate.

“Congratulations to all the other winners and finalists and huge thanks to Solihull Chamber for working so hard to make this a special event despite the challenges of COVID.” Mick Westman added.

Trophy presented to Mick Westman for Solihull Business of the Year 2020
Mick received a surprise visitor on his doorstep

Digital Innovators’ success is built on partnership working and collaboration, with particular thanks to curriculum delivery partners: BeSafetySmart, The Negotiation Club and Real Executive Coaching, as well as funding partners: Solihull College & University Centre, West Midlands Combined Authority, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and Innovation Birmingham. 

The 2020 Awards Ceremony was a poignant affair, held virtually for the first time due to the pandemic. Chamber representatives, local businesses and charities came together to celebrate triumph in the face of adversity and brought some welcome cheer to the Solihull business community.  The event was also raising money for Arrive Alive, a charity which funds equipment and lifesaving vehicles for medically trained volunteers who are trained to attend 999 calls in those vital seconds/minutes prior to a road or air ambulance.

To find out more about all the winners, take a look at the Greater Birmingham Chamber news announcement.

Our Panellist at Birmingham Tech 2030!

I joined the Digital Innovators team as an intern following graduating from the University of Birmingham in 2019. After my 3-month stint, I was taken on full time, focusing initially on working with our employer partners. This gave me the opportunity to grow within the business, both personally and professionally, and I’m now delighted to be working in a new role as Engagement and Delivery Manager! Within this role I am the primary point of contact between students and our clients, ensuring that not only are all parties are happy but that they are both growing within the Digital Innovators process. Truth be told, I joined Digital Innovators with little understanding about how the programme worked or how this seemingly simple process really did change lives. However, during the last 18 months observing this journey, I have seen for myself how the young people we work with – who often join us feeling a bit lost – develop the skills and confidence of someone businesses dream of employing. The change within a student’s eyes from day one to day one-hundred has driven my passion for Digital Innovators. 

The need for growing diversity is not unique to the tech workplace. In my opinion, the UK’s policy and societal failings have contributed to not only the stagnation of social mobility for many communities and marginalised groups but also the denial of opportunities for countless talented individuals. This lack of inclusion has a big impact on all sectors. We not only deny everyone access to the gifts, talents and contributions of those we have directly and indirectly excluded but we also create a poverty of relationship too. Differences from communities is the most powerful fuel for our greatest creativity. Diversity strengthens relationships, binds communities and empowers workplaces. What happens if we get recruitment and promotion opportunities right and achieve diversity? We gain a workforce that is truly equipped for the present and future. 

Everyone deserves the feeling of being at home both at work and in society. The feeling of safety and reassurance. Often, we need to create an environment that replicates this feeling. A place in which communities and individuals feel safe and welcome. However, sometimes this sense of belonging is within an individual. For young people, we often feel disconnected and disenchanted with the world. We are often disillusioned with what we see in the streets which can more often than not, lead to a feeling of being lost. Within the Digital Innovators program, we confront this issue. We equip young people with the skills needed to guide themselves through the world they have become often so disassociated with. 

I am deeply passionate about enabling access to career opportunities for all young people and that’s why I’m delighted to be joining the panel discussion at the Birmingham Tech 2030: Growing the diverse talent pipeline’ online event as part of Birmingham Tech Week 2020. On Wednesday 14th October I will be on the panel discussing how we can nurture the brilliant minds the West Midlands has to offer.

To register, visit https://bit.ly/33dI0dp 

Celebrating new and diverse talent at Birmingham Tech Week

We are delighted to be taking part in Birmingham Tech Week (BTW) from 12 – 16 October 2020. BTW is a fantastic opportunity to show why the region is leading the way when it comes to innovation, offering a series of inspirational and though-provoking events which showcase the very best of the region’s talent. 

In collaboration with Innovation Alliance West MidlandsGBSLEP and TIN Smart Social we are taking part in two events which celebrate the future of diversity in our region: Birmingham Tech 2030. Featuring a series of fantastic speakers and panelists – including recent and current Digital Innovators’ students – we hope to tackle the answers to these important questions: 

  • What’s happening now to support the diverse talent pool of the future? 
  • Who are the emerging heroes for our next generation to be inspired by? 
  • What barriers do we need to overcome to ensure diversity is a given not a challenge by Birmingham Tech 2030? 

Birmingham Tech 2030: New Gen & New Voices 

When: 13th October, 3pm

Hear first-hand from the young people being supported across a range of programmes , including the Digital Innovators Skills Programme, specifically designed to provide the skills needed for a diverse next generation tech talent pool. We will also hear from our New Voices of Innovation, a rich and diverse database of people that cannot only inspire our next generation of innovators but also act as ambassadors for diversity in innovation. 

Birmingham Tech 2030: Growing the diverse talent pipeline

When: 14th October, 12.45pm

With various panellists from across our innovation ecosystem, we will ask the above questions that focus on the future of diversity and how we can continue to nurture and grow new talent. 

These events, and others throughout the week are free-to-attend and give unparalleled access to experts and thought-leaders who will be sharing knowledge on subjects such as business culture, customer experience and how to start and scale up a tech business. BTW topics range from 5G and FinTech, Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence.

You can check out the other Birmingham Tech Week events here.

Double whammy for Digital Innovators in the Solihull Chamber Awards Shortlist

Digital Innovators has been shortlisted for two awards in the Solihull Chamber of Commerce Awards 2020 – Small Business of the Year and Apprentice of the Year.

We are particularly proud of Junior Project Manager, Chris Kennedy, who has been shortlisted in the Apprentice of the Year category against a number of high calibre entries. 

Chris epitomises everything we stand for as a business. He joined us originally as a student on our Skills Programme alongside his college course. He flourished as his group took on a major challenge to design the classroom of the future as his Skills Programme project. He then successfully applied to join the Digital Innovators team as a degree apprentice Junior Project Manager. In the past 12 months he’s taken on a huge range of tasks and been instrumental in helping the company adapt to support students and promote new courses throughout lockdown.

Pete Cripps, Director of Design and Technology at Digital Innovators said: “We’re thrilled to see Chris’ hard work and progression recognised by the Solihull Chamber. He is a real asset to our company and we are keeping everything crossed that he goes on to win the award.”

But that’s not all. Digital Innovators is extremely proud to be shortlisted for the Small Business of the Year Award, particularly in a year which has proved so challenging, both for businesses and for young people. It’s been great to see students progressing on our programmes despite the challenges this year has presented.

This year has seen our business expand to offer our employability training to a much broader age group, including adult learners. We’ve also completely reinvented our courses so they can be delivered remotely as well as face to face. 

“We are delighted to be shortlisted at Small Business of the Year. The Solihull business community has shown real resilience over the past few months and we’re proud to be a part of it.” Added David Hull, Director of Business Development and Engagement.

The winners will be announced during the Chamber’s Virtual Solihull Annual Awards Celebration on Thursday 15th October via live stream from Chamber HQ.  To book FREE tickets to the online awards, please book via the event page on the Chamber website.

We are recruiting!

Could you be our Communications Assistant, supporting our comms and business development activities? Then we’d like to hear from you. Take a look at the job description below.

Digital Innovators Communications Assistant: Job description

Digital Innovators is a training provider specialising in giving young people access to fulfilling career opportunities. We deliver training programmes in partnership with organisations such as Solihull College & University Centre, West Midlands Combined Authority, and other partners to provide ambitious students with the opportunity to learn life skills, work on live business projects and unlock their innate digital and problem-solving skills.

We help young people and those not currently in education, employment or training, access career opportunities by providing them with the confidence, self-belief, leadership and digital skills to help them stand out.

Demand for our training is growing we have created a new role of Communications Assistant to help us promote our story and build relationships with our partners.

Title: Communications Assistant

Term: 1 year fixed term contract

Location: Home-based initially, with flexibility to attend meetings/work from DI offices as required in the Birmingham and Solihull area 

Starting date: As soon as possible

Salary: £20,000 – 22,000pa depending on experience

Working hours: 9-5. Part time and flexible hours considered (minimum 30 hours, salary pro rata)

The Communications Assistant will support the Digital Innovators team across all their communications and business development needs. We are looking for a highly motivated individual willing to get stuck into a range of tasks to support the team. Tasks may range from managing databases, copywriting and proof reading, updating our website, posting on social media, liaising with partners and events support. 

Attention to detail, a solid grasp of IT and a can-do, positive attitude are essential. This role would suit someone who is self-motivated, organised and can prioritise and multi-task effectively. The successful candidate will also need to be happy to work independently and remotely during the current pandemic.

Key responsibilities

  • Supporting the Business Development Director in coordinating partnerships and setting up work placement projects for students
  • Talking to businesses and education providers to promote Digital Innovators and encourage further partnerships
  • Working with the Communications Director to deliver the communications plan for the business
  • Creating engaging written content for newsletters, blogs, reports and general communication
  • Proofreading and editing team materials
  • Assisting with the development, design and printing of marketing materials using Canva or Adobe Creative Suite
  • Assisting the team with preparing presentations and promotional materials  
  • Updating our website e.g. pages and posting blogs
  • Posting on social media and monitoring analytics 
  • Creating/supporting newsletters and other communication via Mailchimp 
  • Assisting with team with planning and prioritising comms and business development tasks e.g. keeping track of upcoming activities
  • Keeping our project tracker and comms plan spreadsheets up-to-date
  • Maintaining our customer and student databases on Mailchimp and Hubspot
  • Providing administrative support to the team as required

Person specification

The following are essential requirements:

  • Good command of written English is essential
  • Confident using Microsoft Office Suite (word, powerpoint etc)
  • Clear, concise writing style with attention to detail (will be tested at interview)
  • Strong organisation, prioritisation, and project management skills
  • Ability to work as a team player
  • An interest in education and youth employment
  • A strong commitment to equal opportunities and diversity in the workplace
  • Ability to adhere to company procedures, respect confidential information and support the company in adhering to Data Protection and GDPR regulations (with guidance).

The following are desirable:

  • Experience of using an email marketing system such as Mailchimp
  • Experience of using social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram
  • Understanding of Google Analytics
  • Experience of using any website CMS system such as WordPress 

To apply, send your CV, including full contact details by 5pm on 5th October to: david@digitalinnovators.co.uk

New apprentice joins Digital Innovators

At the end of a very busy week preparing for the start of our new programmes, we have some exciting news to share. Digital Innovators has appointed Steven Swann as Junior Project Manager Apprentice. 

Steven joins the team to support the delivery of our skills programmes across the West Midlands. This might be his first week, but he’s already a bit of an expert having completed the Digital Innovators course himself last year.

Mick Westman, Founder of Digital Innovators, said: “I am thrilled to welcome Steven to our team. Steven is a prime example of what we are all about. Through his involvement in our Skills Programme, he demonstrated real potential in project management and team working, and we’re delighted to be able to offer him an opportunity to build on his skills through an apprenticeship.”

Steven will work alongside other members of the team, focusing on recruiting and supporting students, liaising with employers and overseeing work placement projects.

Steven Swann said: “I’m really excited to be joining Digital Innovators. I really enjoyed the course I did with the team last year and I can’t wait to share my experiences with new students who could benefit in the same way I have.”

Steven’s arrival isn’t the only news we’re celebrating this week. Fellow project manager apprentice, Chris Kennedy, marks his one year anniversary at Digital Innovators this week. Chris has been keeping our team on track throughout lockdown, making sure that remote working doesn’t get in the way of progress. He’s also taken on the challenge of presenting to groups of young people about why they should sign up for the Digital Innovators course.

“Chris is a real asset to our team, and I know he will give Steven plenty of help over the coming weeks, both of whom will be supported by Harry Paige, our relationship manager. Between them, they will make sure the students joining our programme  get off to a great start and feel supported throughout their Digital Innovators journey.” Mick added.

Find out more about our Skills Programme

New course to boost employability skills

A new skills bootcamp for young people in the West Midlands launches in September, giving 18-25 year olds essential employability skills as well as direct experience of working with local employers. 

Digital Innovators is running a series of five Skills Programmes, funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Beat the Bots Programme, which develop sought-after skills in project management, communication, problem solving and collaboration, incorporating digital tools and techniques that can be applied to virtually any career. The programme helps young people build confidence, unlock their core strengths and learn how to apply their innate digital skills in a work environment. 

Eight weeks of the 13-week bootcamp will see learners work on live business projects with employers, while mentoring support will be provided to help them make the transition to new roles. 

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We made the Beat the Bots fund available for training providers so workers across the West Midlands can gain invaluable digital skills, preparing them for the jobs of the future. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, sadly many people are going to fall out of work, but re-training or improving your current skills is a great way of finding employment again quickly. The Skills Programmes being offered by Digital Innovators will help do exactly that.

“I would urge everyone of any age to look into the option of these programmes, particularly as they help teach and develop key skills that can applied across a number of careers.”

Digital Innovators has been delivering a similar programme for 16-19 year olds for over three years, in partnership with Solihull College & University Centre. The programme has delivered excellent results in improving confidence, applying digital skills and securing apprenticeships for students.

Former Digital Innovators student, Kieran, who has recently secured an apprenticeship with a local telecoms company, said: “Digital Innovators is undoubtedly the most impactful experience of my life – the confidence and skills it has given to me is incredible.”

Chris Kennedy, Junior Project Manager at Digital Innovators and former DI student, said: “Digital Innovators is very hands-on. We use fun games to teach teamwork and collaboration, and we build confidence alongside developing skills in problems solving, leadership and project management. It’s great to work with students and see them going on to secure apprenticeships, even during the pandemic.” 

The first bootcamp starts on 21 September and is available to eligible participants across the WMCA area, free of charge. For more information and to sign up, visit https://bit.ly/di-skills-intro