The University of Birmingham, PwC and HSBC UK are joining forces to encourage young people across Birmingham and beyond to improve their digital skills – helping to develop their own careers and create expertise that West Midlands employers can tap into.

Building upon their existing relationships with each other, the organisations have announced plans to extend the impact of their digital skills programmes for Birmingham – using their strong presence at the heart of the city to connect with its citizens.

Co-located around Birmingham’s iconic Centenary Square, the training providers will use their complimentary business objectives and significant networks to create a unique and blended offering from their current programmes focussing on digital skills, with inclusive access for all communities across the city.

More organisations from different sectors across the West Midlands are expected to join the trio’s efforts to further enhance delivery and impact of inclusive digital skills programmes and collectively widen their reach.

The organisations are committed to bridging the skills divide around digital, including cyber security, big data, and artificial intelligence, as well as widening access and participation to a broad range of education opportunities to diversify workforces.

By joining forces, the organisations intend to amplify their existing offerings, reach, and ignite a passion for digital in more young people, as well as enhancing their positive societal impact, as they slow the accelerating digital skills gap.

Professor Tim Jones, Provost and Vice-Principal of the University of Birmingham notes: “We continue to broaden our educational offering, ensuring a high-quality student experience and working closely with business to provide appropriate placements and internships, Degree Apprenticeships and MSc programmes designed with business to focus on sector-specific digital skills gaps.

“Alongside inclusive initiatives to support higher education access for high-potential students who may have been disadvantaged in their education so far, we are committed to regional growth and the skills agenda beyond higher education, offering coding bootcamps and a variety of public engagement and outreach activities.

“We’re delighted to work with PwC and HSBC UK to align and strengthen our capabilities for more impactful delivery of digital skills and to support inclusive, sustainable growth for our region.”

The demand for digital skills programmes continues to grow. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Oxford Economics, found that an estimated 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people would be needed between 2015 and 2022 to satisfy employer skills needs.

A 2019 Employer Skills Survey cites a lack of digital skills among applicants as an important cause of skills gaps. At the same time, the West Midlands has the fastest growing digital sector outside London and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has ambitious plans to double the industry’s economic output over the next decade.

Matthew Hammond, Midlands Region Leader, PwC, adds: “We are committed to inspiring young people in the region in an increasingly digital world, showing them the breadth of technology careers and how technology is used in all walks of life in a more inclusive way. By combining forces with our anchor organisations in the region, we will increase the impact of our upskilling and technology programmes.

“Our technology degree apprenticeship programme with the University of Birmingham, which is now in its fourth year and the ‘Tech She Can’ and ‘Tech We Can’ initiatives, are just some of the many examples of how we are breaking down barriers to support social mobility so the next generation can build crucial skills and exciting technology-based careers.

“Our recent news of our new technology hub opening in Manchester, which will create 1000 technology focussed roles, also reflects the critical and growing role of new technologies to our business and our clients and underscores our commitment to regional growth and supporting regional rebalancing. We are looking forward to building on these successes with the University of Birmingham, HSBC UK and other organisations as they join with us to address the region’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s diversity.”

Ian Stuart, CEO of HSBC UK also notes: “Developing digital skills is extremely important if we’re to open up a world of opportunity for our colleagues, customers and the communities we seek to serve. Over recent years, we’ve created range of Apprenticeship Levy-funded digital qualifications for existing colleagues, supported STEM apprenticeships at local SMEs in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority and delivered future-focused employability programme to schools across the UK. We see the partnership with the University of Birmingham and PwC as a major enabler in our work to take this agenda to the next level.”

Kim Leary, Chair of Birmingham Tech Week comments: “It is great to see anchor organisations like the University of Birmingham, PwC and HSBC UK come together to strengthen delivery of these critical activities, ensuring that all communities across Birmingham and the West Midlands are prepared for the future and can benefit from the growth in digital.”

The initial focus will be on developing programmes with schools to inspire and ignite passion across the digital skills agenda, but other sectors considered are social entrepreneurs, and youth unemployment, and working with underrepresented communities who do not have access to the same digital learning opportunities.