WhiteHat’s Girls’ Tech Summer School, a programme of free training for young women across London.

“This course was the first place that provided me with any knowledge about tech careers, I had no previous specific information about software engineering or data analytics. This course is how I became interested in pursuing a career in tech, before this course I knew that I was only slightly interested in computers but now I am confident. The most valuable lesson from the summer school for me was learning how to make a piano using HTML, CSS and javascript and also the inspirational speeches from the professionals.”- Girls’ Tech Summer School Participant

There’s a strange situation afoot where a third of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies are based in the UK, many in London, but according to a survey by Deloitte in May 2018, less than half of executives are confident in their own digital skills and ability to lead their organisation in the digital economy, while just 16 per cent believe their talent pool has enough knowledge and expertise to deliver their digital strategy. Additionally, Tech London Advocates report that there’s an estimated 600,000 tech vacancies in the UK, a figure predicted to jump to 1 million by 2020.

As such, we have a growing tech sector, full of opportunity, operating alongside a digital skills gap within a city where 27% of Londoners are living in poverty after housing costs. Furthermore,  in 2017, only 20% of GCSE Computer Science candidates were female and the figure fell to 10% at A-level.

Digital skills training is often expensive. Many young people do not have access to coding clubs or similar at school and fewer (but still some) don’t have access to computers outside of the school day.

WhiteHat launched our innovative Level 4 Apprenticeships in Software Engineering and Data Analytics earlier in Spring 2019 and we’ve already seen some fantastic businesses, including Investec, Sky, Publicis Media, Starling Bank and most recently Santander, seize the opportunity to develop their own pipeline of talent. But there is still so much to be done so we found ourselves asking, how can we ensure fair access for all young people to these incredible opportunities? How can we support young Londoners who face the greatest barriers to employment to get access to the digital skills they need to compete? How can we ensure greater representation for young women, many of whom may have ‘opted out’ of STEM much earlier in their educational careers?

These questions will form a key framework for our Educational Outreach strategy for 2019/2020 led by Siobhan Randell. They are big challenges that go to the heart of our mission and we launched our first 6 week Girls’ Tech Summer School earlier this year. This was a completely free opportunity for young women across London, educated to level 3 (BTEC or A Level) but with no tech or STEM background necessary. The course spread across 6 evenings throughout the Summer holidays and followed an empowering curriculum spearheaded by our very own Product Manager, Anna Taylor, and Tech Talent Manager, Roury Hinds, and delivered by our expert coaches Bernard Mordan and Lisa Carpenter. A true team effort!

At every session the atmosphere and thirst for learning was infectious. Each session was supported by a range of mentors and guest speakers, all women working across a range of tech roles. The participants were an incredible group of young women, all eager to learn new skills so they could feel comfortable to work in tech, giving them the opportunity to ask questions and make mistakes in an inclusive and fun environment. We focused on role models, confidence building, problem solving and building technical capability. At the end of each session it was a challenge to get participants to go home, they had so many questions, which is a great sign!

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our mentors, the WhiteHat Team who helped out in so many different ways, and the amazing young women who took part. We have no doubt they will change the face of tech in the near future!

We have more tech outreach projects like this one in the pipeline for next year, if you’d like to find out more, contact Siobhan on siobhan.randell@whitehat.org.uk.