Inspiring student changemakers through Industry Volunteering

Oct 30, 2023
Our Work

A 2023 impact journey case study

For young people, being able to link education to the world of work helps them identify a pathway to a career which appeals to them.

Many young people are not aware of the range of job opportunities available to them, and do not have the opportunity to see themselves represented in the world of work. Research from Education and Employers found that “there is a disconnect between aspiration and opportunity” and that “by extending and improving careers activities in secondary schools and colleges alone could reduce the disconnect by up to a fifth (equivalent to around 100,000-125,000 young people leaving school each year)”.

Evidence from Good Career Guidance, also highlights that “many young people are kept in the dark about the full range of options open to them”. Role models are often few and far between – students are lucky if they secure a single work placement during their time at school and careers advice is a luxury that many schools cannot afford.

We know that opportunities to engage with professionals through our courses have a huge impact on young people and their teachers. Students develop their own app ideas using processes that are aligned to industry and have the opportunity to connect with Industry Volunteers to help develop their prototypes through feedback and career insights.

Industry Volunteers help to refine the idea that student teams come up with, making them as unique and as innovative as possible. Their feedback also encourages them to think about important design processes, such as user research and user experience. It’s often the first time a student has presented to anyone outside of their school.

Reaping the benefits of Industry Volunteers

Simon James is Technology for Learning Leader at Chiltern Learning Trust, and also Head of Computing and ICT at Putteridge High School in Luton. Simon talked to us about how engaging with Industry Volunteers through the Innovate for Climate Change course has impacted Key Stage 2 and 3 students across the 16 schools in their Multi Academy Trust (MAT).

Industry Engagement is embedded within the course structure and can be requested via the Apps for Good educator platform. As a MAT-wide initiative, Chiltern Learning Trust seized the opportunity to take a collaborative approach to delivering four virtual industry engagement sessions to all 16 of their schools. They began with a session from Google on ideation, teaching students how to think differently and focus on your target audience; they then developed their pitching skills through a session with BNY Mellon; wireframing with OVO and a careers talk with EPAM.

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It was completely invaluable for them - just a chance to hear from an Industry Volunteer, for them to be able to talk and ask really good questions and find out what it means to have the digital skills and be digitally literate in a changing society.”

Simon James, Technology for Learning Leader at Chiltern Learning Trust, and Head of Computing and ICT at Putteridge High School in Luton

Students from across the schools collaborated, shared notes from the sessions and really took on board the feedback and advice from volunteers. Simon said, *“It's all well and good me explaining something or showing a nice presentation, but actually having that industry insight and having someone in the industry to say no, actually, this is what we do, this is how it works, is exceptional. The fact that it is collaborative, and you've got a shared common purpose that we're all trying to work towards something, it really does inspire them to want to create something that's going to be successful.”

Simon will deliver Innovate for Climate Change again as part of the Computing Curriculum to Year 8 students in the spring term 2024.

Year 8 student Chloe is one of the young people who took part in the Industry Engagement session as part of the Innovate for Climate Change course. Chloe told us how speaking to the Industry Volunteers helped her to understand more of the ‘corporate side’, learning about the range of job roles and how different companies can affect the computing world. In terms of developing her own app idea, Chloe said,

“We use the feedback to go back through our app and look at ways we could change it such as fine tuning some of our ideas, we might have had too big an idea, and it wasn't accomplishable – we tried to make sure that we did it on a sort of achievable level.”

Currently around 50% of Apps for Good students are more interested in a career in technology as a result of the course -a number we hope to see increase the more students engage with our Industry Experts and enter our annual Showcase with their own app ideas. With aspirations to become a Lawyer, Chloe didn’t think Computer Science was a priority for her, but after taking the course, she is now keen to choose Computer Science as a GCSE. She said, At first, I was actually thinking, I don't really need computer science to become a lawyer, and I now really would like to choose it. Nearly every job now will involve a computer, so you need to have an understanding of computers. I definitely will choose Computer Science for GCSE now.”

It’s not just the students who benefit – our Industry Volunteers love it too!

In the past academic year, we delivered 63 Industry Engagement sessions to schools across the UK and are delighted to have over 400 volunteers signed up to bring real-world experiences to students.

Many of our Industry Volunteers come via our partner organisations, such as EPAM, who also provide funding to ensure Apps for Good remains 100% free to schools. Industry Volunteers from EPAM give their time and experience supporting students with their ideas, and through opportunities such as pitching sessions and careers talks. This year, EPAM kindly hosted an Apps for Good Showcase session in their London office and had volunteers providing real time in-person feedback, in addition to 40 volunteers from across their business scoring student app ideas and providing feedback to teams virtually. Volunteers come from different disciplines across the organisation to give a holistic view of the roles involved in app development.

Our feedback data shows that for students who took part in the 2023 Showcase, 60% are more interested in a career in technology as a result of the course. This year alone student ideas received a staggering 2,308 reviews from Industry Volunteers, giving young people real-world experience. Feedback from students, teachers and industry volunteers demonstrates the positive impact this engagement has – especially in terms of building confidence. Kayleigh Murphy, Environmental, Social and Governance Lead at EPAM said,

“We had some very talented students from St. Philomena’s High School visit us. We actually saw some of their early ideas that were presented to us, then caught up with them again later on through the Showcase and could see how their ideas had progressed from the feedback that we had given how they've moved on those ideas. That was really encouraging.”

Kayleigh is proud to be able to recruit Industry Volunteers from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences and career journeys into technology. Kayleigh said,

“I think that it's really important to show that it isn't a linear process and that there are lots of different ways into the industry. And not only that, it's not just about coding - whatever they are interested in there is a place for them within technology, and hopefully that helps to encourage young people to pursue a career in technology.”

Don’t forget you can learn more about how Industry Engagement leads to our students 'leaving the classroom ten feet tall’, from our Senior Learning Manager, Dr Emma Posey who takes a look at the challenges and opportunities for teachers and learners.

You can also listen to Kayleigh Murphy from EPAM and Simon James from Chiltern Learning Trust discussing ‘How tech industry engagement is inspiring a generation of changemakers’.