Expanding Accessibility & Diversity in Digital Skills Education
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
As we advance into an increasingly digital world, our future careers and the paths we take to get there will be continuously evolving. This changing context brings about new demands for the types of skills businesses will need in the future and the best paths to take to create future workforces which exemplify diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that we are educating the young people of today for the needs of tomorrow is crucial if we are to create the future workforce we need. Kidovation, created by Accenture Interactive, is a unique offering to help inspire our future leaders by educating them through experience-based workshops. It focuses on engaging children in playful and collaborative events which focus on the skills of the future, encouraging them to think, learn and approach complex problems in innovative ways.
In working to bridge the digital skills gap, Kidovation also wanted to ensure that we were creating an inclusive digital economy which provides learning and career opportunities to people from all backgrounds. To harness the inherent value of inclusion and diversity, we felt we needed to go beyond the confines of our traditional education systems and knowledge economy, using flexible skills-based models to empower people from an array of backgrounds. This led us to create the Kidovation Academy of Experience, which runs interactive workshops for 16-25 year olds, where we share some of the skills and thinking we use at Accenture and what a career rooted in technology involves. Our aim with these workshops is to demystify the path it takes to work in digital industries, and encourage individuals to work in pursuit of their dream careers. We wanted to close the gaps created by limited opportunities and skills relevancy, and make career exploration more approachable.
In partnership with IMO and Children’s Commissioner for England, the Kidovation Academy of Experience helped to facilitate learning opportunities for young people who are in or leaving the care system. With over 10,000 teenagers leaving care in the UK each
year, it is crucial that they are provided with education and career opportunities which help them to thrive in their future careers. Michelle Browne, founder of the IMO project, said: “Care-experienced young people often face exclusion, marginalisation, and stigma. The IMO (or “in my opinion”) project exists to give a voice to the diverse experiences that make up the care population, amplify the voices of care leavers, and change the narrative of the care system”. Our team believes that the skills needed in the future are best acquired through hands-on experiences, so over a period of two months we ran three workshops with over 50 care-leavers to introduce them to some of the innovative practices we use at Accenture.
The Design Thinking workshop we facilitated introduced care leavers to a creative process we use regularly. Design thinking is a solution-based tool which challenges traditional assumptions about problem solving. It encourages you to be human-centred in your approach, which requires critical thinking, empathy and imagination. To bring these Design Thinking skills to life, we followed up with a workshop on Marketing where we discussed the differences between effective and ineffective marketing in the context of everyday products and brands. Danielle, a care-experienced attendee, said:
“The session was even more useful than I thought it would be. The small groups meant we had a lot of input from the team in learning how to problem solve, and using real life examples made the information accessible and relatable. I would definitely recommend the sessions to anybody”.
We also ran a virtual careers event and panel session for care-leavers to provide them with the opportunity to hear from people across the Accenture business. The session included advice from past and present Accenture apprentices and interns, tips and tricks for applications and CVs from Accenture HR representatives, guidance on how to approach interviews with confidence and a discussion on the different career paths people have taken to get to Accenture. Another care-experienced attendee remarked:
“It was super interesting to hear advice from people in specific industries with regards to application processes, especially as it can be really tricky to find that kind of advice online. I love that they took Covid-19 into account too!”
In the session, we also heard from Liz Barnsdale, Managing Director at Accenture Interactive, who gave an inspirational account of her own experience growing up with limited opportunities and how important it is to strive for a growth mindset. One of the attendees commented that “a growth mindset is also related to how we view failure. If we accept failure and see it as an opportunity to grow and learn, it is a real win and makes life easier”. Liz mirrored this by emphasising that good grades are not as important as curiosity and communication skills, and that creativity, empathy and problem-solving skills are paramount for the future. During the careers panel, an attendee said:
“I started a part time job when I was 15. That has kind of helped me a little bit. But listening to this right now has helped me think more about the future”.
This quote signifies the importance of providing opportunities which encourage aspirational thinking about one’s future career, and the responsibility businesses like Accenture have to facilitate these conversations. Following the events with IMO and the Children’s Commissioner for England, Michelle Browne said that “Raising aspirations and inspiring care experienced young people to achieve their full potential is at the heart of what we do. We were thrilled to partner with Accenture and the Kidovation Academy of Experience to deliver a series of events exclusively for this cohort. This partnership enabled us to offer them a unique, behind-the-scenes view of the world of digital consulting, and work towards widening participation in the creative industries.”
A forward-thinking mentality and a thirst for knowledge and experience is exactly what the Kidovation Academy of Experience hopes to inspire in young people. By igniting a desire to learn and equipping individuals with forward-looking skills, we can work to create a digital future that is equitable and accessible for all. We can also widen access to opportunities across diverse groups of people, helping to diminish rather than perpetuate economic and social inequalities. This will enable us to help shape the leaders needed to solve the complex problems of the future.
- Lexi Hayden