Digital Futures - so far, so very good!

Published by Giles Goddard on Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:47
Vicar's Blog

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. What started as a germ of an idea in January 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 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. Ali described the course to Resonance Radio here (scroll to -08.50 on the June30 show). SE1 ran a story about it here.

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). We’ll have the precise timing soon, so do come and cheer them on if you can!

And then for the big prize: work placements. Once they have ‘graduated’, students will apply for various work placements. Our array of partners here is impressive. The National Theatre, Tech City UK, Southwark Cathedral, Coin Street, Latimer Group, My London Home, South Bank Employers Group, Panacea Software, Oasis UK, the Work Foundation and St Thomas’s Hospital have all offered placements varying
from two weeks to one month over August and September.

It’s feels as though we’re at the start of something big. And I’m incredibly grateful to the many people who have given their talents and energies to the project. The success of the Digital Futures course augurs well
for our planned redevelopment. And the overall vision of St John’s Church as a thriving educational and cultural centre feels closer than ever.

In all that we do we try to live out the Gospel: John 10.10 Jesus says "I am come that they might have life, and have it in abundance." Through all that we do we are trying to enable everyone who comes into contact with us to live out their full potential.

Just watching Digital Futures come together has been an inspiration. Together, we’re building something special at the beating heart of London.

Image credits: