Aspirations Academies

Being surrounded by the latest gadgets and gizmos from a young age and using technology is nothing more than second-nature to most young adults who are often considered to be digital natives.

That being said, we’re still faced with facts and statistics claiming that we don’t have enough employees with the relevant digital skills to fulfill the demand of our growing digital economy. The British Chamber of Commerce claims that a massive 75% of businesses in the UK have reported a digital skills shortage within their employee base.

The Aspirations Academies Trust recognises that we are in a fast-changing digital world and are taking it upon themselves to up-skill their students through hands-on employability projects across their network of schools and sixth forms. This is done by connecting their students to industry professionals, giving the students an insight into their industry through project-based learning.

MakerClub recently worked with the students from Magna Academy in Poole, creating a detailed curriculum project delivered over 10 weeks of workshops, providing an immersive learning experience, better preparing for employment.

The students were given a brief by MakerClub to create and present a prototype of a new tech-product which solves a real-world problem. From looking at how technology is currently shaking industries with the ability to connect devices with IoT and manufacturing products at high speeds and low costs with 3D printing, the students were paving their way to being the next disruptors and entrepreneurs of the tech industry.

The project allowed the students the chance to champion different roles, from ‘Customer Researchers and Marketers’ to ‘Product Designers’.  They experienced being in roles that they may have never truly understood what the jobs actually means, breaking down the stigma so they feel confident and the ability to apply for such roles.

Giving students a risk-free environment allowed them to be bold and creative with their ideas and designs. The real-world ‘disruptive’ problem the students of Magna Academy wanted to contribute to solving was ‘fatigue when driving’. This is a topic which is often ignored in the media but really struck with the audience and judges after hearing that figures claim that 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related.  Their product prototype warns drivers of fatigue, alerting them to get off of the road as it’s unsafe for them to continue their journey.

Every week they were learning and putting into practice different digital skills, including programming and CAD design, they also looked at methods of funding that could take their products to market. Project Managers organised meetings to make sure everyone was sticking to time schedules and liaising with the MakerClub leader, all crucial to the project for gaining feedback and data driven outcomes. Soft skills such as communication and teamwork were equally developed, all imperative for the future of work.

The final team took this idea and their prototype worked on a pitch and went on to present it at the National Final, where Magna Academy resulted in being the winning team due to their innovative concepts and successful presentation.

Giving a portal to students where they could take something from an idea to a prototype focusing on using digital skills is invaluable and will no doubt give the students a surge of confidence when entering employment, especially in the tech / STEM industry. The hope is that more schools take the lead on up-skilling their students by giving them these real-world, tangible experiences to better prepare the next generation for employment.

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