The Great Exhibition of the North, a summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit, has showcased some of the incredibly exciting developments and innovations happening in the region today. But just as important, is the legacy it can leave behind as an inspiration and a platform for the next generation of the North East’s innovators and leaders.
That’s a subject that is very close to our hearts at Accenture and as a premier partner to the exhibition, it’s a story we’re proud to be a part of. As a technology business that is all about helping accelerate the arrival of the future to benefit everyone, we are committed to developing the talent we need to secure that goal. And cultivating and encouraging young people to think about careers in technology arguably can’t start early enough. At the Great Exhibition’s Family Expo, it was great to see the excitement and enthusiasm among even the youngest children for the chance to explore a whole range of exciting and fun technologies.
Making technology—and the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that are critical for its development—fun and inspiring has also been a key part of the work that we’ve been involved in with school children in the North East. A key focus for us is to help girls and young women consider STEM subjects and where they could take them in the future. We know that the gender gap in STEM subjects starts early. But we have to close that gap if we are to make sure that more women pursue technology careers. Our Girls in STEM events take place across the UK, and they have a clear focus to help dismantle the stereotypes around technology and show young women the huge diversity of opportunities that a STEM education can open up for them.
Making sure that we have a diverse workforce at our UK Advanced Technology Centre in Newcastle is essential to create the kind of future that we all want to live in. We’re very proud of our success in helping to reverse the brain drain to London and showing young women and men that they have a future here that’s every bit as bright as the capital can offer. Our technology apprenticeship scheme is a great success. We were the first location to offer Accenture technology apprenticeships, and since 2013 we have had more than 150 young people complete the scheme, combining a degree in software engineering with on-the-job experience. They’re part of the reason why we’ve been able to double the size of our workforce in the North East.
Apprenticeships and schemes like them are one piece of the puzzle. But there’s much more for us all to do. One of the most important trends that I’ve noticed is the change in motivation that young people now bring to their careers. In the past an attractive offer for a talented graduate would focus on a clear, long-term career track and a decent salary. While those are still important, they’re no longer the overriding reason why young people choose an employer. Today, the organisation’s values and purpose are the leading consideration. Young people entering the workforce today want to make a meaningful and positive impact on the world around them. They need their employer’s values to line up with their own. That’s a critical element of our outlook at Accenture. We want to harness technology to make a lasting and positive impact on how everyone works and lives. With technology evolving at such a rapid pace and causing disruption across our economy and society, it’s a key part of our responsibility to spread the benefits as widely as possible. To do that, we need young people to feel excited and energised about the contribution they can make to shaping that future.
I’m sure that with events like the Great Exhibition of the North, we can help create exactly that legacy. As a showcase for what the North East has achieved and will achieve, the exhibition has been a huge success. But perhaps its greatest contribution will be in the young minds it has inspired to play a part in shaping the region’s future.