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Inspiring the next generation

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Agile development, coding, DWP Digital

I’m Linda Newton and I’m a Delivery Support Manager for Universal Credit Live Service. At DWP Digital we’re passionate about encouraging the next generation into technology careers.  So last week we welcomed students from two local secondary schools to our Newcastle hub to learn more about the career opportunities unlocked by studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).


Linda (centre) with Keith Dickson opening the event
Linda (centre) with Keith Dickson opening the event

Keith Dickson, Head of Universal Credit Live Service Digital Delivery, introduced the day – which was held in partnership with MyKindaFuture and Capgemini – with a short talk about the huge number of careers available in the thriving technology sector in the North East of England, and the range of careers available within DWP Digital.

Then it was on to a quick ice-breaker and a tour around the digital hub before heading to the practical workshops.

Code and cake

The first session was a coding challenge, where students were tasked with using an app called Scratch to direct a ghost around a maze in the quickest time possible.

Tweet from Studio West School
Tweet from Studio West School

Joe Harvey, a DWP Digital Scrum Master, worked with the students on the coding session and was impressed with how quickly they picked it up, saying, “It was so encouraging to see the students take the lead, providing their own ideas and suggestions to not only find a solution but also make it even better.

“It was fantastic to be able to speak to students making their first decisions about which direction they wanted to go in their career. My colleagues and I spoke open and honestly about our own journeys and choices, and gave them the advice we wish we’d heard when we were their age.  It was also great to see the enthusiasm, confidence and ingenuity the students had and were able to show in the activities over the day.”

One of the students taking part said, “The coding was tricky to begin with but once you got going it became easy to direct the ghost around the screen.”

Introduction to agile

Next it was time for an introduction to agile ways of working, which is how we develop and build our digital services in DWP.  The challenge here was to build Lego figures by copying a picture, rather than using instructions.

The aim was to get the students to collaborate in teams to complete the task in a five-minute ‘sprint’, then to reflect on what they’d done, identify what they could have done better and then give it another go. All of the teams found they performed much more effectively in their second sprint.

An introduction to agile working
An introduction to agile working

“It was class!”

I was really inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the students taking part.  We got lots of positive reactions about the day, with many students saying that it had got them thinking more about their future career options.  The feedback forms were full of words such as ‘excellent’, ‘great fun’, ‘class’ and ‘mint’!

Sam McLoughlin, Business Engagement Manager from Studio West School said, “Our students have had a great day at DWP, learning about the many opportunities within the Civil Service that are on their doorstep.

“It has opened the students’ eyes to potential pathways after school and they realised that it offers a fun, creative work environment. We would like to thank DWP for opening their doors to our students and being so welcoming.”

Susan Green, Work Related Learning Coordinator from Jarrow School agreed, saying, “I’ve already had two students ask if they can come to you for work experience – they are so keen!”

The future looks bright

Teenagers these days are constantly switched onto technology, so it was fantastic to see them harness their knowledge and skills to work together on the challenges. And it was a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm about technology with young people.

STEM subjects give you the skills you need to help solve the world’s biggest problems. The jobs of tomorrow rely on the future generation’s STEM skills, so events like this are important to encourage school children to consider careers in these areas – it was an honour to be involved.

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