Sam Handfield-Jones of Octopus Labs explains the launch of Octopus Academy, which aim to help educate the UK’s next generation of digital talent.
The UK is currently experiencing what’s known as a ‘digital skills crisis’. In a report published in 2016, the Government’s Science and Technology Committee revealed that an estimated 12.6 million people in the UK lacked basic digital skills, and 5.8 million had never even used the internet. That’s equivalent to one in ten adults.
That suggests to me that the current education system is failing us as a nation. The same report indicates that by the year 2022, we will need around 1.2 million new technically – and digitally – skilled people. Within the next two decades, estimates are that 90% of all jobs will require some digital know-how. We’re frighteningly under-equipped to deal with the future that awaits us.
It’s encouraging that coding is now part of the National Curriculum in schools, but classroom learning can only take you so far. People coming out of traditional educational backgrounds struggle to adjust to the fast – and fast-changing – pace of life in the business world. The rate of change is far faster than any curriculum can keep up with. Every day that passes sees the knowledge gap widen.
With plans to exit the European Union still moving ahead, we’re going to struggle to continue to bring in talent from overseas. And if we don’t start bridging the skills gap at home, as a nation, we risk damaging our prospects for staying ahead of the technology adoption curve.
I’m passionate about finding solutions to this pressing issue, and it’s something that Octopus is ready to get involved in. It’s why we’re launching the Octopus Academy.
What is the academy?
It’s a 12-week education programme. From day one, participants will start working on real fintech products, and start applying the knowledge they gain into real-life business situations. The course itself is five days a week and will offer a refreshing blend of on-the-job training (everything from basic coding to growth marketing), guest lectures, online courses, case studies and special projects. We want to make it an intense but inspiring 12 weeks, after which all the participants emerge with a full set of digital skills and the determination to become a fintech professional.
Who can apply?
It’s available to anyone who is interested in applying, although right now we’re focusing on recent graduates and people in their first, second or third year of university. You don’t need to have a background in computer science, and your previous work experience isn’t important. But you do need to be innately curious, possess a flexible mindset and have the desire to push yourself far out of your comfort zone.
A strong business incentive
Of course, Octopus has a strong interest in making sure that the UK is teeming with digital talent. As we continue to build our digital-first business model, across different sections such as healthcare, finance, property and energy. Within Octopus, I think everyone understands how quickly the world is changing and how competitively important it is to develop a workforce with cutting-edge skills. We need a pipeline of well-trained individuals, with a healthy appetite for data analytics and idea generation.
We’re hugely excited about the potential for the Octopus Academy. Setting it up made me realise that in a post-Brexit world, Octopus needs to invest in building domestic talent — for its own sake, but also to help London and the UK maintain its global status as a technology hub. Especially in fintech. Talent is everything. If our academy proves a success, we will have created our own digital talent incubator.