ALET UTCs & Partners named Best Talent Developer

Trust scoops award for digital curriculum at Data Centre World

An education project designed to aid social mobility and address a chronic skills gap in the digital infrastructure sector has won an award for the second consecutive year.

ALET UTCs & Partners won the Best Talent Developer award at Data Centre World, one of the world’s biggest gatherings of digital infrastructure professionals, which took part at ExCeL London on 6-7 March.

The award was given in recognition of the Digital Futures Programme (DFP) – which launched at UTC Heathrow in 2021 – designed to equip students with the skills they need to get one of the many careers available in the digital infrastructure sector. The sector is one of the fastest growing employers but is facing a skills gap – partly because many people are not even aware of what data centres are – which the DFP aims to help address by training up new talent.

Around 17 of the Year 12 students currently studying the DFP, which is delivered as part of their Engineering BTEC, attended the event where they were given tasks to get them interacting with other exhibitors and finding out more about the range of careers available. It also tested the students’ softer skills – speaking to potential employers, presenting themselves professionally and communicating well in an environment they aren’t used to.

The students had the privilege of speaking with the Rt Hon Lord Kenneth Baker, a former Education Secretary and co-founder of the Baker Dearing Trust which champions University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and technical education. Lord Baker cut the ribbon on the ALET UTCs & Partners VIP Student Zone – a hub of students, ALET staff and many of the Trust Partners who have been working with the students supporting the DFP. After spending time with the students, Lord Baker addressed the employer partners, saying: “Civilization depends on you, progress depends on you and I’d like to thank all of you for supporting UTCs. Most students won’t have heard of data centres before. You all are major employers and literally, we won’t get economic growth in the country unless we roll out technical education, so what you are doing is very important.”

The award win – one of four since the DFP launched – comes in a big year for Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET) as it has recently announced plans to expand the DFP to all UTCs in the trust – UTC Reading, UTC Oxfordshire and UTC Swindon as well as UTC Heathrow. This will result in around 600 students per academic year who will be starting their career journeys having had exposure to and technical education in network cabling and data centre specific skills.

Recognising that ALET’s UTCs, with their focus on STEM learning and employer engagement, is an ideal environment to nurture new talent, the judges awarded ALET UTCs & Partners the Best Talent Developer award.

Speaking on the win, president and CEO of Trust partner CNet Training, Andrew Stevens, who was instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground, said it was: “Testament to the whole project that we won for the second year running. Everyone is continuing to work hard; we’re expanding the programme and more and more people are really seeing the benefit of what we are doing. We’re spreading the message, we’re investing in the community and helping social mobility. It’s a wonderful project and I ask everyone to support it and hopefully we’ll win it again next year.”

Andrew was one of four Trust partners who spoke at panel session on Thursday 7 March about the talent shortage and the steps educators can take to address it.

ALET CEO Joanne Harper said: “The work of the Data Centre employers is truly inspiring; a model of collaboration for a brighter future for the industry as a whole; with the future skills pipeline at the heart of their work.  Students in our schools are privileged to benefit from the Digital Futures Programme, where employers support their education and inspire them to join the sector.”

  • The Digital Futures Programme is aimed at 14-19-year-olds and contributes to a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Engineering (NQF). It has been designed by industry employers to equip students with the essential knowledge and skills needed to thrive in technical careers within the digital infrastructure industry, comprising the network cabling and data centre sectors.
  • The Trust Partners supporting the Digital Futures Programme are: Amazon Web Services, ARK Data Centres (Crown Hosting Data Centres Limited), CBRE, CNet Training (CNet), CyrusOne, Digital Realty, LMG, Virtus Data Centres and Yondr.
  • These Trust Partners are competitors in the data services world, but have collaborated to come up with an education programme that not only makes youngsters aware of the variety of careers available in this notoriously hush-hush industry, but also trains them up in the skills they need to succeed.
  • Find out more about the programme at:




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