It’s always satisfying when things don’t simply go according to plan—but instead far better than one dared hope. That’s how we’re feeling this month as we approach the half-way mark of The Bridge at Waterloo’s first educational project. 'Digital Futures' started as a germ of an idea last January. It is succeeding beyond all expectations.
The Bridge at Waterloo is St John’s educational charity, created in part to help young people get into work. It lies at the heart of our redevelopment plans for the church, where we hope eventually to build a state-of-the-art education centre.
Fourteen students embarked on our Digital Futures course on July 4th. Lambeth residents, aged (mostly) between 18 and 30, they came from all walks of life. Kellyanna, for example, is a single mum hoping to forge a career using digital skills; Charlie, unemployed, dreams of finding work in special effects; Cornell would like to start his own business.
The course is being held at St Andrew’s on Short Street. Our tutor is Alasdair Blackwell, an award-winning web developer. His TEDx talk is worth watching if you have a few minutes:
Ali’s four-week boot camp teaches essential tech skills, including website building, app design and digital marketing. The idea is to get young people skilled up and ready for the workplace.
Sheila Wallis, project coordinator of The Bridge at Waterloo, has overseen the entire operation from start to finish, with vital support from parish administrator Elaine Wright. Funding has come from the Walcott Foundation, and large helpings of strategic input from our partners Citizens UK and SE1 United. Last but not least—as no one can code on an empty stomach—our friends at Pret a Manger generously provide a salad and sandwich buffet every day.
As well as technical skills (in an intensive 9-5 schedule), there are workshops on confidence, interview technique, London’s tech industry and even how to dress, run by Debate Mate, Suited & Booted and TechCityUK. There is also a strong mentoring element to the course, with wonderful volunteer mentors drawn from the congregation and assigned to each student.
At the end of the course, students will present an interactive app they have built at the Strive Festival on the Southbank (August 6th-9th). Working with our number one partners the Pell Enselble, the students will create a performance app called "David."
After that, it will be time for work placements, with offers in from Panacea Software, Tech City UK, Southwark Cathedral, Coin Street, Latimer Group, My London Home - to name just a few.
Just watching Digital Futures come together has been an inspiration. Together, we’re building something special at the beating heart of London.