Unlocking Talent in a Post-COVID World

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations to wake up to the digital imperative, with recent research showing that UK businesses have on average sped up their digital transformation by three years. But as we emerge from lockdown and need to address economic challenges and market volatility, the smart employers know that they need to continue this momentum.

One thing that risks stopping this is a talent shortage, especially for those companies that weren’t “born in the cloud”.

This isn’t just a qualification issue – for example, having people with the latest engineering degree. That’s only part of the story because while there are plenty of graduates emerging from our world-class university system, they can’t necessarily add impact from day one. What employers need is the ability to find and hire people with the right blend of academic background, professional qualifications, technical expertise and soft skills. Plus ambition and resilience.

We call this being “work-ready” and we believe that businesses that can access work-ready graduates with technology and engineering skills have the highest chance of thriving.

But we know this is easier said than done, for a number of reasons. Employers struggle to find the right talent from diverse backgrounds, a problem particularly in the North West where many graduates leave the region to pursue careers in London and the South East. There’s a disconnect between the education system and the workplace, with graduates from all backgrounds needing more support to build their confidence and gain the skills needed to put the knowledge they have acquired at university, into practice.

This is an acute problem: we need amazing engineers right now and many are invisible to the system.

Enter the IN4.0 Talent Academy

At the start of this month, we launched the IN4.0 Talent Academy. This is part of the Fast Track Digital Workforce Fund which is supported by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership to address the digital skills gaps across Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Our academy has been designed specifically to help employers build a diverse, ambitious and highly-skilled workforce today, to drive digital transformation and create the leaders of tomorrow.

A fast-track graduate recruitment and development programme, it functions like a bridge: working with universities to connect talent from diverse backgrounds with employers in the North West who need to drive digital transformation.

It has been designed to help our region thrive in four ways:

  1. Graduates are “work-ready”, with a blend of technical, engineering and personal skills, with industry accreditation and AWS expertise
  2. Keeps talent local to support a thriving economy in our region
  3. Supports diversity and inclusion, with ambitious graduates who want to make a difference
  4. Helps universities with aims for widening participation and enabling graduates to fulfil their potential

Launching with our first cohort of 35 IN4.0 Talent interns three weeks ago, the IN4.0 Talent team run a 12-week programme with an amazing team of partners. Acting like a bonus term for graduates to build on their academic achievements, it comprises a blend of soft skills and technical know-how, including an Amazon Web Services certification, plus an 8-week work placement.

These work placements are robust, real opportunities for our interns to both cut their teeth and prove their worth. We are working with a range of employers in the North West and are delighted to announce that BAE Systems is leading the way by offering work placements to 10 interns in our first and second cohorts. These placements give our interns the chance to work on an industrial challenge, including digital technology projects, be introduced to BAE’s entire supply chain and benefit from individual mentoring and coaching.  BAE’s commitment to partner with us is a testament to their commitment to digital transformation and their belief that the IN4.0 Talent Academy is a key enabler of this.

It doesn’t end there! IN4.0 is proud to be an Enterprise Partner of the IET and as part of the academy, we fund our interns’ first year as an IET member and provide 12 months mentoring after the academy to support them in their career and put them on the path to gaining Chartered Engineer status.

Ultimately, the academy benefits all. Employers know they can accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, thanks to getting talent that’s ready to go. This lowers risk because they’ve seen the graduates in action, whilst reducing recruitment and development overheads. We’re delighted to share that we’re already working with some!

While for universities, offering the academy as an extra or “bonus” term at the end of a degree programme helps to give their graduates the best possible transition from education to highly skilled local employment. Our first cohort comes from a broad cross-section of our local universities: UCLan, University of Salford, University of Manchester, Lancaster and Edge Hill.  We have the relationships with industry and the skills know-how to help students fulfil their potential and are particularly excited about the opportunity to work with our widening participation universities to act as that bridge from their education offering to a graduate’s successful career.

And of course, our interns benefit from enhanced knowledge, a host of new skills ranging from collaboration to personal resilience, and introductions to responsible employers in the region. All of which helps to fast-track them and give them the edge over their peers.

At IN4.0 we have big ambitions to help enable employers in the North West develop the leaders of tomorrow, built by a diverse, ambitious and highly skilled workforce. But don’t just take our word for it; over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing blogs and video diaries from some of our interns, sharing their experiences and insights.

The IN4.0 Talent Academy: it’s people potential: empowered.

If you are an employer or university and would like to discuss how we can support you, then get in touch here.

If you are a STEM graduate and would like to find out more about our next cohort, you can find out all the details and how to apply here.