Techcityblog.co.uk is very lucky to have a guest blog written by Free:Formers, a digital training and education company that connects business people with young talent to make ideas happen faster. Freeformers also undertakes number of ‘social good’ projects such as ONE:FOR1 = Business and Social impact and Web for Everyone = giving thousands of people – young and old – the power to not only use the web, but create it. 

Should tech companies ‘give back’?

Yes. Of course they should. It’s simple isn’t it?

Seemingly not as many do not give back or if they do, it’s a bolt on wrapped in a corporate social responsibility wrapper. I believe in building ‘giving back’ into the core of the business. If it doesn’t add to your brand, bottom line or help the business move forward then forget it, it isn’t genuine and you won’t be doing good at all.

So the real question is why should tech companies give back? The answer, in my view, is that tech is all about a plentiful supply of creative talent. Everything from hard core coders, creative content creators to those who disrupt the status quo. You know the ones who break business models, envision a future that us mere mortals can’t begin to understand. The thing is though, is that there is a huge talent gap. Everyone is trying to hire the same talent. Stanford, Oxbridge, MBAs and so on. If you visit five accelerator or incubator spaces in London, you won’t be able to tell them apart as everyone looks pretty much the same. But the secret, which isn’t really a secret, is there is a whole pool of creative talent out there if you focus on diversity. Diversity of education, sex, ethnicity and so on. But you have to be prepared to think about this creative talent in a new way and break some of the rules.

The tech industry breaks rules. Leaders can emerge from anywhere in tech, breaking rules of hierarchy. Buffer decided to publish the salaries of all employees. Google pioneered creative, supportive and flexible workplaces. The list is endless. The tech industry ripped up the rule book on investment and funding. Tech, digital and creative companies are often founded on a shoestring, start-ups are popping up everywhere because doing business online can be cheap, or even free if you have the skills, entrepreneurs can ask for crowdfunding from strangers to get their businesses off the ground. So why isn’t it breaking rules to tackle one of its biggest problems – finding new talent?

Why not tear up the rule book and choose to ‘give back’ whilst helping millions of young creatives, who otherwise wouldn’t get a look in, the chance to take part in the tech industry? oh and by the way that’s our we build bottom lines or innovations in the future. TOMS Shoes are a new breed of business that directly match their increase in sales to doing good. It is not just CSR, it is a genuine business model. A way of addressing demand on two fronts. The need for fashionable shoes in LA and the gift of shoes in countries like Argentina, Haiti and Ethiopia. And this is the lesson for the tech industry. Because there is huge demand in every business for people with digital skills and there is huge need in every country, developed and developing, for job creation.

The UK is a leading example. Here we have businesses crying out for a skilled workforce, less than 1 in 5 employees feel they have the skills they need for the digital age. We’ve all heard about the Digital Skills Gap, well this is exactly what this means. On top of skilling their current workforce, businesses are going to need to find new talent. It was estimated in a report by O2 that the UK will need an extra 750,000 people with IT skills by 2017.Formal education will do what it can to meet this demand but isn’t it glaringly obvious that with just under 1 million young Brits in unemployment and not in education or training something can and should be done to join these dots…

When we founded Free:Formers we joined the dots and have become very successful as a result. Our unique ONE:FOR1 model that matches up every workshop place for paying clients with a free workshop place for young people looking for work. Big corporates are upskilling their workforce though face-toface and online training with the digital skills and innovative know-how a forward-thinking company needs in its ranks. Major British charities are using the free places for young people on employment support programmes and having in-demand skills on their CVs makes a real difference.

A tech startup like Free:Formers has already doubled the social good it can achieve in less than 2 years because of the business model put in place by the Founders. It’s not just win-win. This is win-win-win: for the company, for clients and for each and every young person trained into employability. As we create our own rules of the tech game it is difficult to argue with doing good and doing good business when you can combine them in such a successful way.

Emma Cerrone
Co-founder and Managing Director

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