How cross borough LIFT scheme is demystifying the tech sector
Julia Gregory, LDRS
- Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer/ Islington Council
“I have a mind for tech and puzzles. Doing the boot camp helped me get into coding,” said NHS volunteer vaccinator Tania Santana.
She had already started to learn about coding when she found out about the LIFT scheme, which works to make sure underrepresented communities and businesses benefit from the thriving technology, science and digital sectors.
It saw Tania develop her skills with Founders and Coders, based in Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park.
She is just one of the job hunters and businesses to benefit from training support provided by the £7m scheme, which arranges for residents to improve their digital skills so they can boost their job prospects and promote their businesses.
LIFT has brought together Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets councils.
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Santana said: “The bootcamp is all about tech and it is very inclusive. I’m interested in coding and I’ve always had the mind for it.”
When lockdown started, she began studying using online resources, so the bootcamp came along at just the right time.
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“All the time of lockdown I was preparing myself for this,” said the Holloway resident.
She previously worked in the food industry and worked her way up from waitressing into management roles.
Right now she’s fitting in her bootcamp studies around stints as a Covid vaccinator for the NHS.
She has delivered the jab to people at venues including the Islington Design Centre and Hornsey Medical Centre.
“I started doing admin and ended up vaccinating people and assessing people.”
She would love to get a job in tech in the NHS.
“I really enjoy working with them,” she said.
The three-year LIFT programme launched in March and aims to get residents into good local jobs in the knowledge economy including tech, digital, sciences, and creative production, and to support businesses and start-ups in these sectors.
It is also hoping to help get more people from under-represented backgrounds into tech.
Programme manager Hamish Mackay explained it’s the first time the four boroughs have joined together in a partnership like this. They share similar challenges in deprivation and inequalities but residents can benefit from the jobs market on their doorsteps.
There’s Shoreditch’s Old Street tech area – said to be the third largest tech cluster in the world – and the Knowledge Quarter in Camden, with employers such as the British Library, universities and Google kickstarting the demand for people working in tech.
“We are working with some of the best, most exciting businesses in the world and we really want to take advantage of those opportunities on our doorstep,” said Mackay.
Despite the pandemic, the tech sector has thrived although Covid and has created a “pressing need” for employment support for many residents.
Would-be LIFT participants are urged to get in touch if they don’t have devices or internet to follow online training.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that no-one is excluded,” said Mackay.
LIFT is offering business support through its Survive and Pivot training, and Mackay said it has worked with market traders and those in fashion and jewellery to help them bring their business online and reach a new market.
So far 10 residents have also started paid internships with tech start-ups, which is giving them access to opportunities to learn at work, even if it means working from home because of the pandemic.
Others have joined the OneTech programme online to find out more about the world of tech and develop their digital skills.
Mackay said: “A huge part of it is demystifying what the tech sector.”
He added: “There is tremendous support out there and people do not know how to find it.”
People may be worried that they do not have formal tech qualifications, but Mackay said “employers want enthusiasm and attitude”.
The scheme also includes outreach on estates to spread the word. The organisers also held an event at the tech and innovation Here East Hackney campus in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Islington's jobs chief, Asima Shaikh, said: “As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re determined to build back differently, creating a more equal, inclusive economy that works for local people.”