Finalist category: Digital Skills Award 2017
Digital Skills Award, Finalist, 2017
MakerClub – Inspiring the next generation of techies
MakerClub’s BrightSparks programme gives Brighton tech companies the chance to make a life-changing difference to children from low-income families.
A lack of access to technology, combined with reduced school and home provision, means that children from low-income families have significantly less chances of entering into a STEM-related job. At the same time, 47% of digital companies say the education system isn’t meeting the needs of business.
“Our programme links these problems together and provides an elegant and replicable solution across communities. MakerClub runs weekly invention clubs for ages 8 to 13 in makerspaces across the UK – giving children access brilliant equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters, while teaching hands-on invention skills through regular project work that covers coding, design-thinking and electronics. This is all taught by awesome facilitators using an advanced digital learning platform,” said Declan Cassidy from MakerClub.
The BrightSparks programme finds children with the potential to shine through local school ICT co-ordinators. MakerClub connect these children to local digital companies, who pay for 12 months of weekly full club membership. MakerClub can also provide staff in these companies – if they wish – with free DBS checks and basic teacher training so they can volunteer in club sessions to pass on their skills.
In addition, companies are asked to provide real-world creative design briefs the children can work on at MakerClub, providing further context for their work and a link to long-term vocational skills.
The pilot project, launched in March 2017, now has 20 local digital companies involved, with 40 new volunteers trained and 25 young people placed in weekly sessions. Once fully rolled out across the UK, this programme will inspire hundreds of talented digital staff to give their time and pass on their skills to the next generation.
BrightSparks is currently a pilot, and with MakerClub now in the process of launching in 10 other UK centres, the initiative can potentially connect up to 1000 digital companies directly with young people aged 8 to 13. Next steps for MakerClub are to replicate the success of Brighton BrightSparks in their other new spaces around England.