Securing a bright future for UK tech

Amazon has ambitious plans to engage more young people in science and computing.

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As a leading technology firm employing nearly 30,000 people in the UK, Amazon is determined to play its part to ensure the next generation is equipped with the skills they need for the future economy. The UK is a major hub for Amazon, so investing in skills is a core part of our work here.

Since 2010 we have invested £18bn in this country – this includes in our people, in our operations and in new research and development facilities. We are very excited by the talent in the UK. It is a thriving centre of activity in the technology sector, and can become even better in the future.

Research by Capital Economics, commissioned by Amazon, shows the UK could miss out on £33bn a year by 2030 if it does not ensure the workforce has the right skills in computer science and related areas.

This means the country needs an additional 38,000 skilled workers every year, including 21,000 computer science graduates, to take this opportunity. Amazon is working to make sure the UK can take advantage of this opportunity.

To help meet that need we have launched Amazon Future Engineer in the UK. It is a comprehensive childhood-to-career programme to enable children and young people from low-income backgrounds to try computer science. Through this programme we want to reach more than a million children and young people across the UK over the next two years. This is a programme we are also operating, with success, in the US.

Amazon Future Engineer aims to inspire the next generation to get interested in robotics and technology at each stage of the career journey. For primary school children we are offering 10,000 pupils the opportunity to take part in free robotics workshops at Amazon fulfilment centres across the UK over the next two years. The workshops, accredited by the British Science Association, give young people the chance to work with robots and see computer science in action in the real world.

Further to this, working with Code.org, we have created an online tutorial based around dance that features music from leading artists, to engage young people in coding. Globally, tens of millions of children and young people have already participated in Hour of Code tutorials since 2013. One hour of learning through Hour of Code is proven to have a positive impact on students, with a significant increase in the number of students reporting that they like computer science after taking part.

We also know the power of teachers in helping young people find the right path for the future, and at the secondary school level we are supporting Teach First in recruiting and training 50 new computer science teachers and 200 careers leaders. Focused on schools in low income areas, this will improve teaching provision and help students understand the opportunities and careers available in the computer science industry. Careers leaders will receive support to develop a long-term careers strategy to improve students’ opportunities in their schools. After two years, this investment is expected to benefit 50,000 secondary school students.

These initiatives are designed to inspire a generation in the growing industries of tomorrow. But Amazon isn’t just looking to encourage people into developing their careers. Through Amazon Future Engineer, we are also directly funding people to gain the skills they need to succeed. Earlier this year we announced our intention to offer a further 1,000 apprenticeships, to add to the 300 apprentices we already had on board.

They range from entry level to degree level, and among those are 120 Amazon Future Engineer apprenticeships in software development engineering, automation and advanced mechatronics. Participants in our apprenticeship programmes will benefit from a mix of on-the-job work experience and classroom-based learning.

We also fund bursaries for students from lower-income backgrounds studying computer science at Cambridge, King’s College London, Manchester and Edinburgh universities, which neighbour our corporate sites and development centres there. Those who get Amazon Future Engineer bursaries don’t just receive financial support; students also benefit from mentoring and internship opportunities from within Amazon, helping them to take the first steps in their career.

The future of the UK’s technology sector is bright. The world of tomorrow will increasingly become dominated by computer science and technology-related industries, and we need to make sure that the workforce of tomorrow is equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed.

Case study – Nicola: pursuing a dream career in engineering

Growing up, Nicola Elliott dreamt of becoming an engineer. She says: “I have always been interested in technology, I liked fixing things but I didn’t think it was possible. I had never met a fully qualified female engineer in my life.”

She discovered Amazon’s Automation Engineering Degree apprenticeship on a website dedicated to women in engineering. It was a chance to fulfil her dream. Now in the second year of her apprenticeship, Nicola is working at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Bolton.

Her four-year scheme offers a blended approach of classroom training and on-the-field practice, culminating in the achievement of an engineering degree alongside a number of academic and vocational qualifications.

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