Ronnie Corse, Head of Technology at Sky; Vice Chair – Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) West Lothian Regional Group
Many school pupils weighing up their career path options will not necessarily be aware of the variety and flexibility that a career in technology can offer, with girls in particular not always considering a tech career as broadly as we would like them to.
Thankfully, we are starting to see a shift in these perceptions, with excellent initiatives like Developing the Young Workforce helping to influence young minds that fantastic opportunities in technology are there to be grasped.
Within Sky’s Technology Division, we are reaching out to schools in a big way and driving forward our Modern Apprenticeship programme. Established five years ago, the programme typically receives over 100 applicants each year, but in previous years it was not unknown for there to be not one single female applicant.
Last year – progress! We had 150 applications, 15 of which were from girls. Let me be clear, competition is tough and the application process rigorous. We look to place four people on the Apprenticeship programme, whittled down from a short list who will go to our assessment centre from the initial applications, but we’re delighted that girls are seeing technology as a pathway worth pursuing.
Getting into the 11 local catchment secondary schools across West Lothian to speak with teachers, pupils and in some cases, parents, has been made much easier by the Developing the Young Workforce Regional Group, based within the West Lothian Chamber of Commerce. It is therefore up to employers in West Lothian, like Sky, to continually foster these strong links and help to gradually change perceptions that technology careers are there for everyone – not just boys!
We take part in several outreach activities to address the gender issue, from attending STEM events, to inviting school pupils into our offices to chat with our female engineers. Activity like this clearly inspires young girls, showing them that possessing a great attitude and passion is more important than possessing technical skills. We show that you don’t need to be just scientifically minded to work in technology – indeed, some of our best engineers at Sky, both female and male, come from wide and varied backgrounds including arts and humanities.
At Sky, we also have female Analysts, Project Managers, Coders, Software Technicians and several in senior or leadership roles. These are demonstrable role models and a powerful way of showing girls what can be achieved if they wish to pursue a career in technology. Furthermore, we are helping to redress the ‘myth’ that technology continues to be a male dominated environment.
Lauren Brown, Project Manager of DYW West Lothian Regional Group, has worked with our team over the past 18 months. She said it is evident that ‘investing in the young workforce is not only an important priority in attracting new talent but is a fundamental component of the Sky company ethos when it comes to developing the existing staff.’
We hope that, by continuing to reach out to schools within our region – and by encouraging other employers to do the same – we start to achieve the gender balance that is so important for our industry.