David Barker was one of the UK’s first digital marketing entrepreneurs in the early 1990’s and is now founder and CEO of Techcentre Training, helping to tackle youth unemployment through affordable access to the right training for soft skills and digital skills for business to help young people be work ready.
Since becoming one of the UK’s first digital marketing entrepreneurs in 1994 after witnessing the birthing of the Internet, I have always been a techo-optimist about the benefit to humanity of the Internet and the connected world. Working with Intel and Microsoft for the next ten years across Europe to drive internet adoption across government, business and civil society was a dream come true to try to bring that future to bear.
Unfortunately, by 2004 I realised the utopian vision of a better world for all was not happening, and the dystopian version of higher youth unemployment, poverty and political disruption was more prevalent and would only increase if action wasn’t taken. I wanted to play my part too, so I exited my internet company with a vision to focus on finding new ways to tackle youth unemployment, both in the UK and around the world.
I started with a self-funded research study on youth unemployment that started in London, before moving on to Berlin, Beijing, Moscow, Kampala, Palestine, Israel and Boston, USA. The research surfaced the reality that too many unemployed youth never had the right soft skills training whilst in education, combined with lacking the modern digital skills needed for business.
Inspired by this I became a social entrepreneur, innovating new approaches to retraining unemployed young people to have the right skills, that has led me to today driving Techcentre Training, focussed on retraining unemployed youth with soft skills and digital skills for business, whilst upskilling young people in education with these same important skills to reduce their risk of future unemployment through being better ready for the workplace.
The approach is unique – partner with established organisations working with young people and then augment our CPD-accredited online training courses and bespoke consultancy support to rapidly expand partner capabilities. We are already scaling up in the UK and now I’m starting the research and development to take Techcentre Training into Europe, starting in Spain with the highest youth unemployment rate in Europe.
From a policy perspective, as politicians struggle with finding solutions to tackle youth unemployment, I suggest we need to focus in three areas:
- Fund bootcamps that accelerate the digital skills and soft skills needed to be successful in the modern workplace.
- Deploy employer engagement strategies to better align recruitment around apprenticeships and jobs with these bootcamps.
- Help small and medium-sized businesses adopt technology that will help them increase productivity and growth, to then create apprenticeships and jobs for young people.
We can still achieve the utopian version of a world connected through the Internet, but we need to be more intentional and innovative in how we better grow and scale businesses whilst ensuring our young people have the right soft skills and digital skills for business to be more employable and work ready.