Microsoft, Mozilla and Salesforce have pledged their support for iDEA, the digital equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE), which will aim to narrow the UK’s IT skills gap.
The three technology brands will join Barclays, Telefonica, KPMG, Silicon Valley Bank and the University of Huddersfield, which are all backing the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA).
The five businesses pledged funding to iDEA and offered other support options including office space, mentorship, software and work experience.
Launched as a pilot in March, iDEA is the brainchild of HRH the Duke of York and Nominet Trust. The award hopes to help more than one million people, aged between 14 and 25, develop their digital skills to become more employable.
Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust, said that the announcement demonstrates a commitment by UK businesses to equip young people with the skills they will need to succeed in the modern workplace. She added: “Through the iDEA programme we will be working hard to support the UK economy with a digitally literate, confident and capable workforce.”
IDEA will award DofE-style badges to participants, which will recognise their digital skills and achievements throughout the scheme. Partners of iDEA will also offer participants the opportunity to earn additional badges sponsored by the brands.
The award hopes to encourage participants to be entrepreneurial and give them the confidence to set up their own digital and technology businesses.
IDEA is currently in its pilot stage after being launched at Buckingham Palace in March. It consists of three stages: The Discovery stage helps young people develop their digital business ideas; the Beta stage sees participants develop a product prototype and develop business plans; while the Live stage will see the most promising ventures receive support to turn prototypes into viable businesses.
Fifteen of the most promising teams are participating in the final stages of the pilot. These teams will receive £5,000 worth of grants, along with mentor support to help them bring their business concepts into reality.
When the pilot ends in October, three individuals from the 15 teams will be selected to receive the overall 2014 iDEA Award and will receive a grant worth up to £15,000.
As the technology industry grows, so too does the demand for digital skills. In particular, Microsoft is concerned that there will be a massive shortage of IT skills by 2025.
This year’s GCSE results indicated that young people are becoming more interested in studying technology-related subjects, as the number of students sitting ICT GCSE exams has increased for the third year running.