Sally Caughey, Head of Digital Inclusion at Capgemini, discusses Capgemini's Digital Academy that supports refugees and those from disadvantaged backgrounds


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Sally Caughey reflects on Capgeminis Digital Academy

Sally Caughey reflects on Capgemini's Digital Academy

Sally Caughey is Head of Digital Inclusion at Capgemini UK. She reflects on what Capgemini has learnt after opening its doors to its first Digital Academy for refugees and those from disadvantaged backgrounds - an initiative that aims to helps to ‘fast track them’ to employment. 

A learning journey for everyone

Capgemini collaborated with Code Your Future to launch the Digital Academy and Sally discusses the value of this partnership.

"In a very short time, this partnership has become much more than a corporate programme measuring numbers ‘in and out’, trained with the skills for work," says Sally. "It’s already gone way beyond this as I, and other volunteers, build relationships with the students, we are learning to ‘stand in their shoes’, helping them translate what they are learning to prepare for employment in a large organisation like Capgemini. We already have a stake in their futures. It’s been a learning journey for us all."

Identifying potential and commitment

For Sally, the first lesson learned by Capgemini has been that identifying potential and commitment early on means Capgemini can better its chance of helping students succeed

"Students who applied to the course had eight weeks to build a basic website using open source learning, with minimal support. This allowed us to test their potential ability and commitment," explains Sally.

"This phase was self-selecting and only 10 per cent completed it in time to join our course in December. We interviewed everyone who reached this first stage and the majority were accepted onto the course."

Mentoring and guiding students

Another lesson learned by Capgemini is that building solid relationships enables the company to mentor and guide its students much better.

"This interview process gave us an insight into the students. It was a turning point as we realised we would want and need to be more heavily invested in them. We made efforts to get to know them, to hear and understand their stories," comments Sally.

"Working closely with Code Your Future and expert organisation Inemmo, we assessed the students psychometrically, to match them with our volunteer mentors, who were also assessed to make sure they had the right skills to support the learning and integration needs of our students. Each receiving a 40-page analytical report, our mentors learnt a lot about themselves in this process too."

Fostering core soft skills

Capgemini's Digital Academy has also highlighted the importance of soft skills like teamwork in helping people to thrive.

"Code Your Future also teamed up with Honeycomb Works to provide the soft skills training that we had identified as a key priority for employability. Hosting these sessions at the beginning of the course was critical in building confidence and establishing the trusted community that has come to be the foundation of the course," adds Sally.

Creating an environment for success

The Digital Academy has also confirmed that there is much more to work than practical skills. The company also needs to foster an environment for success

"Since we started the course, we have also opened up our Capgemini offices to the students, inviting them to our networking events and introducing our projects and ways of working as part of day long immersion sessions," says Sally.

"We also host bi-weekly homework clubs led by our volunteers. We want the students to become familiar with our offices and ways of working, helping them to build a network of contacts across Capgemini. This builds on the foundation of our education and schools outreach programme where we know it is the number of business interactions that enable success," she adds.

"We’ve also found that these interactions have been critical for preparing our own teams to support and guide the students once they arrive. We’ve had a chance to reflect on our own team structures, the interview and induction processes and how to adapt our working environment to create one where the students will not just survive but thrive."

Balancing online and face to face support

Finally, Sally shares another important lesson learned by Capgemini: don’t underestimate the importance of balancing online learning with face to face support.

"The regular weekend lectures and collaborative tutor groups at Code Your Future offices are a vital part of the course. Many of our mentors, who signed up to ‘once a month’ have become regular Sunday course dwellers too, taking on much more and in doing so are also developing their own skills as mentors, lecturers and presenters. And for the students, the Sunday sessions are a social network, a support group and a foundation for community and trust," explains Sally.

“Code Your Future offers plenty of opportunity for technical and non-technical volunteers, so suffice to say people find their role more than they are given one. I like to help as much as I can, so consequently I find myself doing many things – from being a technical assistant to a soft-skills mentor and even leading a class recently," adds Enterprise Architect Sanyia Sadova who is one of the mentors on the Digital Academy. 

The importance of community and belonging

For Sally, the key lesson though is that community and belonging lead to self-belief, which can overcome the biggest obstacle to learning. 

"I can sum up what I’ve learnt very simply. We are all human. We all benefit from belonging. Fear of failure is the biggest barrier to learning – to learn we must believe we can," adds Sally.

"The support network nurtured by Code Your Future, students and volunteers alike, re-instates belief."

Make a difference at Capgemini

If you want your career to make a positive social impact, you should note that Capgemini employees are committed to helping communities harness the opportunities of digital technology. If this sounds like something for you, take a look at Capgemini's exciting job vacancies and see where your career will take you.

 

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