More than just a major distributor of top IT brands across the EU, Westcoast is helping to invigorate and secure the next generation of STEM students with a refreshing community outreach programme.
When the Education Business Partnership (EBP) first approached Westcoast with the task of helping to attract more female students into STEM subjects, everyone was excited. Founder and owner Joe Hemani’s passion for education is something that shines throughout the business and, embraced by an army of willing and enthused employees, Bright Sparks was born.
Though more young women are studying STEM subjects, they still represent only 24% of the graduating student population as of the 2016/2017 academic year.
Bright Sparks focuses on secondary school students who are on the cusp of GCSE and A-Level subject selection, or about to take the leap into further education. Working as a complement to the curriculum, the programme promotes and educates about entrepreneurship, IT-based careers, as well as soft skills such as presentation techniques and pointers for successful interviewing.
As Liz Mylum from Westcoast’s HRM department explained: “It’s all about stoking imagination, and the soft skills of how different job roles work with one another. Bright Sparks is designed with flexibility at its heart, whether students enjoy an invigorating two-hour session, or two days of real-world learning.”
With school budgets constantly squeezed, the Bright Sparks programme complements the existing curriculum and works with teachers who know their students’ needs best. A refreshing approach which allows each school to create a bespoke programme tailored to their individual objectives.
For students, this translates into brainstorming the future’s challenges to be overcome through applied technology or discovering how a product’s life cycle takes it from design phase to customers’ laps.
Unlike many schemes of this nature, Westcoast aren’t just seeking out the top 10% of the student body. Recognising that every young person has skills and deserves a great future ahead of them, Mylum continued; “We’ve developed a suite of programmes designed to inspire, educate and reward all young people. The courses are designed to stimulate ideas and develop skills, opening young people’s eyes to the wider world of IT.”
And it’s not just the pupils who win. Bright Sparks is a symbiotic relationship where everyone gets a great take-home.
For the school, it’s a free aid to support its important work in broadening horizons as students make some of the most important decisions of their lives. Promoting a different outlook helps to energise, motivate and deliver a brand new perspective on their existing subject choices, and perhaps, inspiring them to try something new.
“Little Heath School has been absolutely delighted to welcome Westcoast back again for the second year running to promote its ‘Bright Sparks Programme’. Both workshops were interactive and engaging, raising awareness of the variety of roles available in the technology industry. Superb” – Eileen Wooller, careers officer.
For Westcoast’s employees the initiative provides them with a chance to invest in their local community while taking away new skills and experiences for their own development.
And for Westcoast, the company is already seeing the benefit from an increased local presence with three apprentices inspired to join the company after participation with the Bright Sparks programme.
Part of a growing industry that’s constantly calling out for a larger, skilled workforce, Westcoast understands the role STEM plays in the future. It’s because of this it’s keeping it’s plans for Bright Sparks suitably ambitious.
Aiming to reach more and more secondary schools over the coming years and continuing to support students’ development with an in-house apprenticeship scheme, the dedication to our young people’s future is clear to see.
With offices in Reading, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Dublin, Westcoast is calling out for secondary schools in these areas to take part.