Interviews

Could you be an ambassador to help the younger generation fall in love with tech?

  • Bring IT On is aiming to engage NI’s youth by combining academia with industry, and they want you to be a part of it.

    Bring IT On aims to raise awareness on career pathways into the tech sector and targets people from primary school age - right through the school system - up to adults who are thinking of changing careers or those who are returning to work. It is also funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE).

    Sara Lyons, who delivers the programme at Belfast Met, says the Bring IT On message is spread through school presentations. This year they will be heading to 130 postprimary schools and 20 primary schools.

    She added: “We also attend many careers events around Northern Ireland and organise our own. For example, in February we are doing two big events in Derry and Dungannon which are targeted at Year 10 girls, to help them make informed choices about their GCSEs. We will also host events with parents and teachers, and then engage with employers as well."

    Belfast Met has been delivering Bring IT On for four years now, and has its fair share of success stories, one of which Sara explained: “We support Belfast IT Girls every year, which is a week-long summer camp here at Belfast Met. A young lady called Victoria Porter attended that a few years ago. She had chosen her A-levels specifically to go into a career in medicine. However she was so inspired by the subjects she had taken and the industry mentors she had met in that week she decided to totally change track and she's now in her second year of the PwC tech degree apprenticeship.”

    What is a Bring IT On ambassador all about?

    Bring IT On ambassadors could be anyone working in the tech community in Northern Ireland. Sara continued: “The initiative is there to create closer links between IT companies and schools, so that ambassadors from those firms might be able to mentor ICT, digital media and careers teachers.

    “They could go into the schools and give careers or tech talks and they might offer work placements to students. The level of engagement is essentially up to them. They also might invite students to come to their offices to help them visualise what the world of work is like. Some of the tech spaces and offices are amazing. They have social areas and places for games; that well-being aspect of the sector is so important. They want to encourage their employees, and for them to feel content and valued within their teams, as any workplace should be – but the tech sector really emphasises that and it’s quite attractive for any young person but they need to be made aware of it.

    “We also want young people to understand the diversity in the sector. Ambassadors will come from a whole range of backgrounds. They could be really techy but could also be a business owner, project manager or a UI/UX designer. We want a wide representation of people across different roles to open young peoples’ eyes and show them what’s available.”

    One of the first ambassador visits was at Ashfield Girls High School, Belfast. Three representatives from tech firm Unosquare - Roisin Hughes, Mel Keenan and Michaela Cromie - talked to Year 12 girls about how they got into the industry and how they can support women in tech.

    Colette Walker, Head of ICT at the school was “delighted to be involved” and said that “having a link with a wellknown, local IT company meant that our girls could discuss opportunities for work experience and gain invaluable advice about specific roles in IT.”

    Roisin Hughes, Human Resources Manager at Unosquare added that “working as Bring IT On Ambassadors was a fantastic opportunity which facilitated us to be able to inspire more young women to join the IT sector.”

    The Bring IT On team is reaching out to “anyone in the industry with passion and enthusiasm to speak with the younger generation,” said Sara. “It could be anybody from that young person who's just starting off in their career, to a person with extensive years’ worth of experience who really wants to talk about how their career has evolved and how exciting it is to see the industry evolve. It's a good opportunity for people who are just starting out - for personal development - to go out and talk in front of people and hone those presentation skills as well. We would suggest for a lot of the bigger employers to encourage their younger members of staff to thus weigh in.”

    Susan commented that Bring IT On is delivered throughout Northern Ireland in collaboration with all other colleges. The team is constantly on the lookout for new ambassadors and new schools to partner with.

    “In the future it would be amazing to have a Bring IT On ambassador in every school in Northern Ireland,” Sara concluded.

    If you are part of a company within NI’s tech sector and would like to get involved in the Bring IT On programme, fill out their simple survey at: bringitonni.co.uk/bring-it-on/ Also visit this site to fill out a survey if you would like your school to join the Bring IT On programme. You can also follow the team on Facebook and Twitter @BringITOnNI

    This article first appeared in the Women in Tech special edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download a FREE copy here. 

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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