Views and announcements

Belfast Technology Employment Academy with Councillor Ryan Murphy

  • Councillor Ryan Murphy, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, speaks about how they are providing a talent pipeline for the city’s fast-growing technology sector.

    As we continue to engage with employers across Belfast’s key sectors, we’re identifying that they find recruiting from the local labour market challenging at times, due to a shortage in specific skill sets.   

    At the same time, a proportion of Belfast residents are finding it difficult to get a job or re-enter the labour market due to a range of barriers, including the absence of appropriate skills, qualifications and licences that are required. 

    The Belfast Agenda 2015-2035 is Belfast’s first community plan, setting out the city’s strategic and economic ambitions.  'Growing the Economy' and supporting 'Working and Learning' are two of the agenda’s key priorities, recognising that a thriving and prosperous economy is the engine of change for our city. 

    To ensure that this growth is as inclusive and widespread as possible, we’re focusing on facilitating job creation and ensuring economic opportunity is accessible to those most in need of work so that we can start to address the interlocking issues of poverty, economic inactivity, unemployment, and under-employment. 

    In June 2021, the Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission, chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, published proposals for NI and Belfast’s growth and prosperity. ‘Reset for Growth’ also made a welcome commitment to inclusive growth, with a significant focus on skills and an urgent call to consider more inclusive employment pathways. 

    Engagement with employers in Belfast’s technology sector has revealed both skills shortages and a significant lack in the supply of talent. Recognising the need to think creatively about talent shortages, they are now questioning whether higher-level qualifications should continue to be a pre-requisite for employment in the sector.  

    To address these growing needs, we’ve joined forces with Learning and Work Institute (L&W) New Futures to invest in a demand-led Technology Employment Academy to provide an innovative, alternative employment pathway, equipping individuals who can demonstrate aptitude with the skills and qualifications they need to compete for jobs in this high growth sector.  

    What’s the aim of the academy? 

    We want our Technology Employment Academy to support people who are currently employed and wish to reskill, are underemployed, or are not in work at all, so they can enhance their employability and secure a job in Belfast’s technology sector. We also want to help local employers access the skills they need to sustain and grow their businesses. 

    We’re achieving this by taking an employer-led approach. Our academies are designed around participating employers’ skills needs and are only delivered when employer commitment has been secured and job opportunities are available.   

    Before they’re registered for an academy, we screen potential participants to determine their suitability, willingness, motivation and ability to work in the positions available. Those who successfully complete the academy programme will be guaranteed a job interview for a live position and receive aftercare to help them achieve a positive and sustained employment outcome. 

    Who are we targeting? 

    We want to challenge the belief that academic qualifications are the ‘yardstick’ of someone’s suitability to work in the technology sector. So, we’re targeting people who are unemployed, economically inactive or returning to the labour market, those who want to change direction in their career, and those who have been impacted by Covid-19 – for example, having lost their job. 

    To be selected to participate on our tech academy, applicants must show aptitude in critical thinking, creativity, literacy, numeracy, technical acumen, and problem solving – all skills needed for a successful career in technology. However, we don’t ask for formal qualifications and the academy isn’t targeted towards recent graduates. 

    What’s the appetite for academy registration? 

    We carried out a great deal of candidate outreach activity in Spring 2022, including information events across the city giving potential participants the chance to meet recruiting employers in person, extensive stakeholder engagement and a social media campaign. Following this, we received more than 100 applications for 15 places in our pilot tech academy. 

    Over 50 candidates completed a tailored aptitude assessment, with the 30 highest-scoring individuals being interviewed and 17 offered a place in the academy. Expressions of interest have continued to flow in, and we currently have more than 200 potential participants for future academy intakes. 

    What does the tech academy cover? 

    Our pilot Technology Employment Academy was sponsored by Allstate and Citi. A short, focused period of co-design resulted in a comprehensive, yet concise curriculum. 

    Academy participants were immersed in the essentials of software development including databases and SQL, JavaScript programming, web development, data security and more. Participants also gained the fundamentals of product management principles and practices, as well as benefitting from formal mentoring from Microsoft and vital employability skills, including coaching, mentoring, communication and teamworking. 

    How is it delivered? 

    Our pilot academy in June 2022 was delivered on a full-time basis over 16 weeks, in a classroom setting. 

    It included a two-week work placement,  benefit assurance for all participants, extensive support including childcare and travel, as well as a guaranteed interview with Allstate and Citi.

    What was the demographic? 

    We were pleased to attract a diverse range of participants in our first cohort. It included 11 male and six female participants with 7 of them self-reporting a disability or illness. These participants also had a mix of qualifications ranging from GCSE level only to post-graduate level.

    What were the results? 

    Our pilot Tech Employment Academy was completed on Friday, October 14, 2022, with a celebration in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.

    All 17 participants were interviewed by both Allstate and Citi, with all of them being deemed employable and offers restricted by roles available at the sponsoring employers with very attractive salaries on offer. 12 of them gained immediate employment and further employability support was provided to the remaining participants.

    Can we help you? 

    Our pilot has been a huge success, so we’re looking forward to delivering another Tech Academy soon with a larger intake of around 40 participants.  

    Our Employability and Skills team is continuing to engage with employers to secure commitment to providing sufficient employment opportunities to support this ambition. 

    If you’re a Belfast-based tech employer who would like to get on board and help secure the skills you need to grow your business, please contact Michael Kane at 

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