West Midlands Combined Authority Digital Bootcamps

West Midlands Combined Authority has used £5 million of national funding to commission digital retraining bootcamps for adults, working with over 20 specialist training providers.

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The rapid growth of digital investment into the West Midlands is a major opportunity, but has highlighted the shortage in job-ready skills. The Combined Authority has used £5 million of national funding to commission digital retraining bootcamps for adults, working with over 20 specialist training providers, such as Tech Talent. This has created a bridge into digital jobs for unemployed local residents and career changers. The pilot has supported over 1,500 learners to join bootcamp programmes, with over 65 per cent attaining positive outcomes.

The high demand for digital talent has encouraged employers to be more flexible in their recruitment, creating opportunities for local residents to retrain and access well paid careers.

In responding to major local employers, including BT, Goldman Sachs and CapGemini, the West Midlands has developed a bootcamp training model that meets entry level requirements of employers and creates a basis for in-work training and progression. This format is attractive to businesses under pressure to fill vacancies, but also ensures accessibility for target communities. The programme aims to have 60 per cent unemployed clients and has a focus on women and BAME communities, refugees and carers, that are supported by wraparound individual and employment advice into work. Around 55 per cent of the digital bootcamp learners have been female.

Employers can’t wait four years for digital graduates, they need work ready skills now and are interested in career changers that bring a diverse experience of work.

The model has demonstrated the feasibility of training pathways into technical roles in the digital sector without computer science degrees, broadening the potential pool of recruits. It has clearly shown the effectiveness of working with employers to co-design training to address specific skills gaps. Building on the success of the programme, the Combined Authority is using its AEB flexibility to allocate a further £21 million over the next three years into digital bootcamps.

This investment provides stability of funding and builds employer confidence in the bootcamp model as a primary means of recruitment. While bootcamps are not appropriate to all circumstances, they offer an effective method of meeting the specific recruitment needs of employers and bridging skills gap for local residents. WMCA and partners intend to use locally commissioned bootcamp model for major new investments, such as the planned West Midlands Gigafactory.