How young people are developing the skills they need to thrive

Oct 30, 2023
Our Work

A 2023 impact journey case study

As a world leader in values-led innovation, the UK tech sector continues to grow, remaining #1 in Europe and #3 in the world. There is clearly a need for tech skills in the workplace and apparent career opportunities to be had but despite this need young people are uncertain about their digital skills, with research indicating 85% of those aged 16 to 24 believed they did not have the skills needed for today’s digital jobs. Employers are feeling it too, with the British Chamber of Commerce reporting that almost 80% are struggling to find people with the right skills.

But, it’s not just about tech skills. According to our partner, Skills Builder, the demand for essential skills, such as leadership, teamwork and creativity are increasing - not just from employers, but from employees too. Their Essential Skills Tracker report sets out the research behind the significant role that essential skills play in our economy, businesses, education and our broader lives.

Tech skills to benefit society

We’re thrilled to learn that in the academic year 2022-23, after completing an Apps for Good course, 63% of our students said they feel more confident in their computer programming skills.

But despite an overall positive picture, there is more work to be done to build interest in computing studies for some groups. We found that just 45% of young people from schools in challenging circumstances are more interested in studying computing or ICT during school or further studies - a number we’d like to see increase in the next academic year.

Kempston Academy Students, Ranbir (14) and Jacky (13), created an energy saving app called SOLO - ‘Schools Out Lights Out’ - and were shortlisted as Systems Thinkers in this year’s Showcase. Inspired during our Innovate for Climate Change course, both students have decided to go on to take GCSE computing. Jacky said, “It gave us new skills which will help us in computing”. Ranbir added, “Knowing we can make apps like this to have an impact on the environment, helping schools like ours - it’s a really great feeling”.

Their fellow classmates at Kempston Academy told us how learning about the process of making apps was really interesting. None of them had previously considered how a ‘good app’ was created and admitted to often downloading apps without even thinking about it.

We found building confidence and finding enjoyment in computer programming in years 7 and 8 is having a positive influence on further computer science study, as Shilbane from West Bromwich Collegiate Academy told us, "Before doing this course, I thought I was going to take something like history and art for my GCSEs, more of those types of things. But after this course I started feeling like a real enjoyment for coding. Like, you know how to do it. You know how to teach everyone and thinking I might want to do computer science, and I'm definitely using it."

Essential skills for future work

What differentiates Apps for Good from other computing and coding courses is that we don't just teach students to code, we’re committed to teaching the essential skills needed to equip young people for future work.

We talked to students from Apps for Good schools across the UK to find out more about the essential skills they developed through our courses. Here are some of the themes from our conversations:

Skills for work and life

84% of students who took an Apps for Good course in the 2022/23 academic year reported developing more than one essential skill. This was slightly higher for girls, at 92%.

Steve Hall, Senior Leader at Life Academy Trust in Leicestershire told us how his students are developing skills to help them succeed in life and work. “Our students learned so much more than just the technical knowledge required to build a prototype app - they learned how to collaborate more effectively during the design process and how to communicate their ideas to a wider audience. Lots of students wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves to be good at coding yet they were able to use their imagination and creativity throughout the design process. They also had to think critically and show resilience to solve problems that they encountered when building the prototype.”

One of Steve’s students, Tanvir, told us “It’s a great opportunity to develop skills for when you’re older - the panel of experts was like an interview panel that you might have to do when you’re older for jobs.”

Finding their voice

For many students, it’s the first time they will have presented their ideas to people outside of school and our Industry Volunteers provide the opportunity for students to present and receive feedback. Half of our students reported ‘speaking’ as a key skill developed during the course.

Ranbir from Kempston Academy said, “I definitely got a lot more confident - speaking to a whole lot more people I don’t know, including speaking to judges about our idea.” Chloe from Putteridge High School said, “I definitely say it helped me with my confidence a lot more because I used to be someone who didn't really speak up. But now I'm starting to join a lot more speaking clubs.”

There’s no ‘I’ in team!

71% of students said their teamwork improved by the end of the course. Students told us that by working in teams they worked with people they didn’t normally hang out with and they learnt new skills from each other. They were able to take on different roles and test out their time management, prioritisation and organisational skills. Others told us how they liked building on each other’s ideas - often negotiating with each other to distil their ideas to one coherent idea to take forward.

A student at Daubenay Academy said, “So the best part was working together as a team. And obviously, like having the sessions come together and put all our ideas together. I think it's made me have quite a lot of skills, and it set me up for the future. And I know that if I was to ever do something like this, again, I have the skills that I need to do it.”

Believing you can!

We think it’s really important that young people are equipped to shape their future, so it’s great to see 64% of our students say their problem solving improved and 60% said they feel more confident in understanding how technology can help society or act on climate change.

A student from Kempston Academy told us that “Before we did Apps for Good, I didn’t know I could actually change the world and make it a better place. It had an impact on me. I feel that Apps for Good really changed my mind about technology, helping change the world.”

To explore why skills play such a key role in the Apps for Good approach, read more in this blog from our Senior Learning Manager, Dr Emma Posey.