Reflecting on 2021, looking ahead to 2022 and tackling youth unemployment

DI News - Reflecting on 2021, looking ahead to 2022 and tackling youth unemployment

2021 saw Digital Innovators make significant headway in adapting and developing our skills programmes to unlock the potential of hundreds of young people in the region. We also expanded our team, moved into new offices, launched Digital Innovators West Midlands Community Interest Company and even won an award for Outstanding Education and Training at Solihull Awards 2021!

So, how do we plan to follow that this year?

Mick Westman, Founder and CEO of Digital Innovators shares his thoughts on the challenges for young people in 2022 and how Digital Innovators intends to help more young people gain meaningful employment.

Mick’s reflection

Digital Innovators’ mission is to provide alternative pathways to employment. Our focus is supporting 16–24 year olds by unlocking their potential. This remains as true today as it was when we started – but how we achieve this has adapted in light of the pandemic, not only to respond to new challenges caused by COVID restrictions, but in recognition of the significant increase in demand for digital skills across all industry sectors.

2021 delivered some sobering facts:

  • Between August and October 2021 – 87,000 people aged 16-24 had been unemployed for over 12 months, which was 18.9% of unemployed 16-24 year olds. This is an increase from 18.6% of unemployed people in this age group in the previous quarter.
  • Shockingly, 20% of all people who had been unemployed for over 12 months were between the ages of 16 and 24 year olds.1
  • The number of young people in employment has fallen by 171,000, a 5% fall since 2020.

Not only has the pandemic affected these young people individually, it has impacted our economy as a whole, with the cost of higher youth unemployment in terms of lost national output forecast to be £5.9 billion in 2021, rising to £6.9 billion in 2022.2

Taking action to tackle youth unemployment

We are redoubling our efforts to find more ways to bridge the gap between employers and young people to provide alternative talent pipelines and support them in their skills and experience development for when the jobs market recovers.

Now more than ever, we need to help these young people build the confidence, self-belief, and resilience needed to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate their value to employers – and in 2022, we have a number of exciting initiatives coming up which will do exactly that.

In 2022 Digital Innovators will focus on creating an environment that allows employers and these young people to work together, to share ideas and to create alternative career pathways that help address this worrying trend of young people in this age group being unemployed, and for extended periods of time.

This will primarily be done through delivering our skills programmes in colleges and schools, as well as through The Ideator – based at Innovation Birmingham – in collaboration with Bruntwood SciTech and GBSLEP, which will be launching with five events this January and February. These events will see national and local employers working directly with students in live problem-solving workshops to address business challenges.

By providing a space and opportunities in which young people can demonstrate their capability, skills and ideas, I am confident that we can illustrate to employers the value that young people can bring to their business and facilitate further collaboration which will contribute to the reduction of youth unemployment in the region.

Thank you

Digital Innovators would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout 2021. Without your support, our work would not be possible. We look forward to continuing to work together to facilitate the development young people in the West Midlands.

We are keen to share more about our plans for 2022 and explore further opportunities for collaboration. To get involved, please email

1 Youth Unemployment Statistics 2021 House of Commons research briefings.

2 Report from Learning and Work Institute and The Prince’s Trust, supported by HSBC UK.

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