8 January 2018

UKFast Raspberry Pi cafe - internet centre for digital skills

The UKFast Raspberry Pi cafe at Broadoak

It’s a new year but the conversation remains around the skills gap. How can we equip young people with the skills they need for the future workplace?

Figures released in July 2017 by the Learning and Work Institute show that the skills gap could cost the UK economy £90bn a year by 2024. It could also leave 4.2m highly skilled roles unfilled.

But it is not just limited to the upcoming generation of workers. According to research by Barclays, 43% of adults in the UK don’t have the skills they need for modern workplaces. This includes word processing, spreadsheet use and social media skills. The research shows that only 23% of adults aged between 35 and 55 are confident that they can keep their digital skills up to date.

It’s a concerning conversation but the government and community are taking steps. Late last year, the government announced a £170 million fund to create Institutes of Technology.

These institutes are set to bring business and education together to boost much needed digital skills. A great step that will start to have an impact when these centres open in 2019.

How can we help?

We recently announced the launch of five new cyber cafes at schools across the North West. The announcement come as part of our drive at UKFast to bridge the skills gap. Students will use these hubs used for lessons, for extra-curricular activity and for the broader community to boost their skills too.

UKFast branded Raspberry Pi

A UKFast-branded Raspberry Pi

We’ve seen proof of concept with these ‘cafés’ when we launched the first in Broadoak School back in 2015. We launched this centre in collaboration with the Dean Trust in the hope of engaging pupils and the local Partington community. The feedback we have had has been fantastic. I was proud to hear that that students view the café as an exciting place to learn new skills.

The Broadoak café followed the initial project building a Pi café in one of the villages in Malawi. One of our team flew out there with the project to set up the tech and teach the local community in Linux, Python and PH with custom Raspberry Pi tech.

Raspberry Pi bringing real tech skills

These cafés, whilst representing a £100,000 investment in time and equipment, are actually powered by incredibly accessible tech: Raspberry Pi computers. I remember when UKFast first blogged about Raspberry Pi when it launched back in 2012 and we discussed the exciting options that could be achieved with the credit-card-sized computer that costs a fraction of the normal PC. Bringing hands-on technology to schools has to be one of the most exciting impacts of this technology.

I am excited to see these projects come to fruition. But this isn’t the end of the relationship. We hope to work with these schools for many more years to come. The only way to tackle the skills gap in any useful timeframe is for businesses to step up. We’re one of many and Manchester is certainly flying the flag for business and education partnerships delivering real outcomes for young people.

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