New Digital Skills Lab to Tackle Skills Gap in Merseyside launches

The region’s first community-based Digital Skills Lab – aimed at tackling the widening skills gap for young people has launched.

The award-winning charity, Everton in Community, is behind the initiative which will equip people in Merseyside with sought after digital skills and inspire an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) subjects.

The new Digital Skills Lab is based at Everton in the Community’s The People’s Hub on Spellow Lane in Everton and students from schools across Liverpool were among the first to try out the state-of-the-art activities on Friday.

The official charity of Everton FC is ensuring no child in Merseyside is left behind as it aims to combat an ever-increasing skills gap between disadvantaged young people and jobs within digital/STEAM industries. It comes as official stats show digital careers in STEAM are set to double over the next 10 years.

The launch follows research undertaken by STEM Learning, which shows 89% of STEM businesses have found it difficult to recruit staff with the required skills, leading to a shortfall of over 173,000 workers – this equates to an average of 10 unfilled roles per business.

The lab focuses on a hands-on approach to involve participants in their own learning process while developing 21st Century skills to help to prepare them for the future.

Within the lab students will have access to:

  • iPads
  • LEGO® Education
  • VR equipment and a VR pod
  • eSports and gaming
  • Sphero Robotics
  • A laser cutter and 3D printer
  • Drones
  • FIRST® LEGO® League
  • Makeblock Education
  • Ozobot coding robots
  • KUBO coding tools
  • IT skills
  • Digital literacy courses

John Tekgur, 14, from Hillside High School, said:

“The entire morning was very hands on. The activities I took part in today like using coding and robots were more practical than my usual lessons which I’ve enjoyed, it definitely makes a change from sitting in a classroom reading and writing.  Technology is changing every year so it’s important we’re learning these new skills so that we don’t fall behind.”

Phoebe Smith, 10, from Pinehurst Primary, said:

“I’ve had loads of fun this morning at the hub playing with new technology which I think will play a big part in our futures. We don’t normally do anything like this in school and the best part is we can talk to our friends, problem solve and have fun all at the same time. It’s definitely opened my eyes to the world of technology and just how much I can do with it.”

There is no ceiling as to who can make use of the Education Technology resources available at the Digital Skills Lab. Adult learners will also have full access to gain new skills and confidence that can help increase their employability and explore new career opportunities.

The Digital Skills Lab is backed by industry experts CreativeHUT and funded by a group of philanthropists known as the ‘First Steam Squad’.

Sue Gregory, CEO at Everton in the Community, said:

“The launch of the Digital Skills Lab is a huge step for the E-STEAM programme which will make a positive difference to the lives of children within the Liverpool City Region.

“As we move towards the fourth industrial revolution, we are working with our partners to ensure young people in Merseyside are in the best possible positions for their futures and we’re extremely proud of just how much is on offer here. We’re particularly looking forward to seeing younger children who join us at the lab progress their skills and go onto engage with the more technically advanced activities here.

“Programmes such as E-STEAM are greatly helped through philanthropy so we’d like to say a huge thank you to our First Steam Squad who has helped us bring our vision to life. We’d also like to thank CreativeHUT for their expertise which has helped us to deliver this state-of-the-art facility.”

The new initiative is part of Everton in the Community’s E-STEAM programme which launched in April last year. The programme delivers fun and imaginative learning to children aged five to 16 in 63 schools across the Liverpool City Region, aspiring them into careers in STEAM, and engages with adults and older groups. It has already engaged more than 1,200 participants​ and delivered over 200 sessions​. 

Jimmy Worrall, founder of Leaders in Sport and part of the First Steam Squad, said:

“Today’s unveiling was the perfect opportunity for us all to come together and witness first-hand the importance of creating areas such as this for children where they can learn, play and develop new skills. This is especially important in areas of economic disadvantage, and we wanted to deliver something which will leave a legacy in the community.  

“We’re incredibly proud to play a part in the delivery of the lab which we hope will inspire children to go onto pursue careers in digital and STEAM which they previously might not have considered.”

Gareth Boldsworth, founder of CreativeHUT, said:

“We are incredibly honoured to support Everton in the Community and its E-STEAM Programme. Seeing the passion from the charity, along with the support from industry and the First Steam Squad, has been a humbling experience for CreativeHUT and our partners.

“The launch of the Digital Skills Lab is not only crucial to the Liverpool City Region, it is essential in setting the benchmark of how learning experiences can be delivered to all students across the UK. The programme will provide incredible support to pupils and teachers in helping develop the skills needed for future jobs and our shared belief of giving every student an opportunity in STEAM, no matter what their background, will encourage that.”

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