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Silicon Valley entrepreneur launches training academy to develop tech skills in young British workforce

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Thursday, 12 August 2021. Posted in Scaling up, Interviews

David Richards, CEO and founder of software firm WANdisco, has launched EyUp, a training academy with aims to fill the digital skills shortage gap in the UK

Silicon Valley entrepreneur launches training academy to develop tech skills in young British workforce

Silicon Valley entrepreneur launches training academy to develop tech skills in young British workforce 

David Richards, CEO and founder of software firm WANdisco, has launched EyUp, a training academy with aims to fill the digital skills shortage gap in the UK

“There has been a growing digital skills crisis in the UK for years, but little has been done to create alternatives to our current education model,” David told me. “The Covid-19 pandemic further exposed the problem in the UK; on the one hand, as digital transformation has accelerated, we have witnessed a huge surge in tech job vacancies and on the other hand, we have thousands of young people in need for good jobs but they don’t have the skills to gain employment in the sector. We desperately need to address this.” 

The latest research by the Learning & Work Institute shows the number of people taking IT subjects at GSCE has dropped 40% since 2015. And according to the WorldSkillsUK report, 76% of businesses believing that the lack of digital skills would hit their profitability. With a shortage of skills in the tech sector, David realised there was a need to fill a gap in the market, leading him to open his very own training academy, EyUp. Launching in Sheffield in September, EyUp Skills will deliver a fully immersive course run in partnership with iO Academy, training students aged 18 and above to develop their skills in technologies and methodologies used in software development today. The 16-week course will teach people the valuable skills and knowledge for employment, to generate jobs in the tech sector and also to invest in start-ups across the North of England. “CEOs desperately need people with tech talent to help their companies grow,” David said. “EyUp was founded to meet the pressing demand, and offer an alternative and more reliable route to employment for young people in the North of England.” 

Unlike most training academies, EyUp’s scheme will consist of three sectors – EyUp Skills, EyUp Jobs and EyUp Ventures – and the latter will provide graduates with access to jobs and seed funding should they decide to start their own business. In EyUp’s programme, there will be only eight students assigned with each trainer, making classes small and focused with a project-driven curriculum to give learners practical skills mimicking real-life working environments. Graduates will also be offered a six-month entrepreneurial program where they will create a company with funding from EyUp supervised by a team of highly qualified board of directors who will coach and guide them during this process. 

“The tech sector is always rapidly changing and we’ve found that newcomers to the industry just don’t have the practical, up to date skills needed,” David said. “Even a degree from a top university is not enough to prepare someone for a job as a data scientist or software developer. We even find that Computer Science graduates are leaving university without having the right hands-on experience or knowledge in the most up-to-date languages.  


David believes traditional IT and software courses do not give students sufficient practical skills and hands-on training required for the industry – and many have to take on additional courses after university to learn the skills required for the job. David aims to bridge the gap in skill shortages with EyUp’s all-rounded programme, which provides students with practical skills and knowledge needed for the sector. 

“Our metrics tell us that an EyUp Graduate will get more hands-on experience in our 4-month programme than a graduate from a 3-year degree programme,” David said. “As a result, graduates often have to undergo further training or compete for unpaid internships at tech firms in order to learn the necessary skills to be employed, and paid, by the sector. Understandably, for many young people, 3 years and over £40,000 is too steep a cost to only prove their aptitude for a job, excluding thousands of talented individuals from accessing a career path they could be well suited for. Naturally, people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately deterred by this which is what we want to change with EyUp.” 

EyUp will also offer 25% of applicants with bursaries fully paid for by sponsors to ensure people from all walks of life will have the chance to nurture their skills in the sector, giving them the opportunities to advance in their careers. “We know that the most innovative teams are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and life experiences,” David said. “To ensure people from all financial situations have access to the course we will be offering scholarships through our Diversitech fund, which offers discounted fees to people from groups that are underrepresented in the industry, including women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals, and people fro. low-income families. The fund is made possible through donations from forward-thinking tech companies who want to see a change in the industry, which in itself highlights the recognition within the sector that diversity in the sector is needed urgently." 

David launched EyUp during the pandemic, a time when digital innovation has sky-rocketed as businesses adapted to working remotely, causing a huge surge in tech jobs to meet the rising demand for IT and software skills. At-home working has brought a boom to the digital sector, eliminating geographical location as businesses can now hire talent from all over the country. David hopes to bring more job opportunities to communities in the North of England, and see a rise in new emerging talent from outside the tech hub of London. 

“As we know, the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption much faster than we could have anticipated,” David said. “The result is a massive increase in job vacancies within the tech sector and if anything has made the need for this kind of platform more pressing than ever. Remote working has also eliminated the geographical barriers that previously prevented companies from employing talent outside of major cities. Living in London is no longer a requirement for many tech roles resulting in the development of industry clusters throughout the country. By creating a pipeline of talented developers, we harness the changes of the last year and bring jobs and opportunities to communities in the North.”  

David added: “Just to say that this is the right time to be thinking about new career opportunities and routes into high-growth industries. EyUp offers the perfect platform to enter the tech sector, and access to unique hands-on experience you simply can’t get through traditional education. Every new graduate will also receive a cool EyUp flat cap.” 

To apply for a course in EyUp, visit www.eyup.com.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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