Using technology to engage effectively with young people from deprived communities will help the UK diversify its workforce and bridge its skills gaps.
Many young people from the country’s more deprived areas have limited experience of technology. Mental health problems and other issues mean they may have missed out on lessons at school, or couldn’t afford technology at home and that holds them back when they move into the world of work.
That has created a real need to engage these young adults and motivate them to acquire the IT and personal skills they will need at work. Lisa Capper, Nacro’s Head of Education and Skills, says: “We’re trying to give these young people, including some who are coming out of custody, the skills they will need in the workplace or in further studies in education.”
Access to data and monitoring learners' progress
To support that work Nacro is overhauling its IT infrastructure. That’s everything from improving broadband and wifi connectivity, to using Chromebooks and developing better management information to monitor students’ work.
Accurate and easily accessible assessment data is critical to tracking students’ progress and makes a real difference in helping tutors understand how they can best make a positive impact for individual learners.
An interactive dashboard will be at the heart of the new information system and this will make data available not just to teachers but to employers as well. Lisa says: "The driver for these changes is monitoring and measuring student progress, and creating consistent standards across a national organisation. And of course employers want to have access so they can see in real time how their apprentices are performing."
Upgrading IT in this way also means organisations can do things more efficiently and significantly reduce their workload. That, in turn, frees up time to use the data they collect more effectively and to think about how they can do things differently and make smarter decisions.
The charity is using an experienced consultant to lead the project and to support the in-house IT team to implement the technology transformation. "We’re a charity so it’s not a massive number of people, but we’re focused,” says Lisa.
Getting apprenticeships right
The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy means that those working with young people need to be more focused on developing closer links with employers so they can understand their needs.
Good technology can help them respond to these changes by establishing a stronger three-way dynamic between learners, training providers and employers. As the number of apprenticeships grow, these closer connections between providers and employers will give learners a better experience, not least by ensuring their training is more relevant to the daily challenges they’ll come across at work.
“The best apprenticeship schemes I’ve seen across Europe are in the Netherlands” where Lisa believes the strength lies in the “very close link between employers and youngsters from the age of 14, and I’d love to see that happen in the UK.”
Nacro is a national charity providing training courses and work programmes for vulnerable 16 to 20-year-olds. To support its work and increase its effectiveness, it is improving its technology infrastructure across its community centres and secure settings.