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Background

As a local employer why we need to support the IT learning in East Kent

Posted by Kate Tilby

The Bunker-Ultra Secure, like a number of local companies, struggles to find IT talent. For us, the challenge is particularly in the Open Source, Microsoft and Networking teams where the ability to not only build complex and bespoke IT solutions is essential, the ability to ‘fail fast and learn and adapt quickly’ is key. Based in the beautiful Kent countryside, we can struggle to compete with the lure of London and City salaries, so we focus on ensuring our roles are varied and engaging, with the opportunity of personal development and a great work-life balance. We love apprenticeships and have been using them for many years to develop and nurture talent, however, have often found that the course syllabus can be seriously out of date, if not irrelevant.

We are excited about a new initiative where, in partnership with Holiday Extras, we are working with the East Kent Colleges to support and share information and feedback on the relevant behaviours and skills being taught in their IT faculties at NVQ L2, 3 and 4. Our aim is to ‘positively influence learners in our local area, helping them to not just be immediately employable but ‘actively sort after’, by employers’ who know they have been given an amazingly well-rounded education in IT over their time with the college. It will also give us the opportunity to improve our visibility and reputation as a local employer of choice.

#NicholasHolbrook-Sutcliffe, Principal of the Dover Campus of #EastKentCollege, reached out to us a few months ago to help his understanding of how local companies feel about the local colleges, as well as how we could potentially impact the learning landscape for students. As firm believers in giving young people every opportunity for success and the understanding that we could have the opportunity to directly impact, nurture and inspire the local colligates to be driving for IT roles in the local area, we ran out of time and were keen to open up the discussion to a wider audience! We both agreed we want to ensure that East Kent College is producing top talent for local companies, be it directly from college into roles or through the apprenticeship path as well as to help them understand that there are aspirational roles in the local vicinity.

Fast forward to last week, where along with my colleague from Best Companies Top 100 employer #HolidayExtras, #NatalieAdams, I spent a super-interesting few hours with heads of faculty from a number of East Kent Colleges, discussing how as a tech employer, we want to support the learning of young people in East Kent as well as aid our understanding of the excellent courses already available through campuses in Dover, Ashford, Canterbury, Broadstairs and Folkestone. Having had a few days to reflect on our discussions, it is clear that by local businesses sharing information and specialism in an area with learning establishments, we can really support local learning institutions getting the very best from their learners. It was also clear the passion and enthusiasm the college has for making their syllabus one of the best in the country.

With the curriculums across their 5 campuses covering cyber security, networking, computer science, programming, app development and design, the future in these areas will no doubt be bright and individually, I am extremely excited and proud that we are able to help shape the approach and help shine a light on local companies who need these skills and talents, hopefully adding a real edge to the talent in East Kent.

A particularly interesting aspect of the discussion was around the fact that the focus for companies is not necessarily having students ‘graduate’ with in-depth IT, but instead be given the encouragement and development of traits and behaviours that will equip them for success. So what traits need to be nurtured? We discussed resilience, courage, flexibility, an interest in transformative tech, an inquisitive and disruptive approach and that as enablers we must help them be genuinely excited about change.

From a technical perspective a strong grounding in data security and how all IT is underpinned – a strong understanding of IT infrastructure and history to build upon, need to be installed into everyone no matter the specialism was also discussed.

So what are the next steps for us in this journey? I am looking forward to continuing further discussions with Nick and colleagues, with the aim of sharing the opportunity with the wider employment base in the area and for the faculties to start thinking about how we can help them deliver and mold their upcoming curriculum (and particularly T curriculum from 2020). This is a real opportunity for us to continue to build ties and relationships throughout East Kent’s working and learning establishments and I for one, am looking forward to the challenge!

#TheBunker #supportinglearning #excitingopportunity #thosewhocan