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2022 – 2022

“Learning is a community activity, and needs to include practical skills”

— VocTech Challenge Green Paper 2021

Gather is a unique Learning Community Operating System, powering our next-generation, highly-social, grassroots-powered online digital skills programmes; propelling young people across Greater Manchester – including those in underserved communities – from “no previous experience” through to junior-level employment and apprenticeship in the tech industry.

Our free and flexible open-access programme eschews a “cookie cutter” approach. Learners are valued and understood by our community – staff, mentors, and peers alike – feeling safe in the knowledge that their issues (whether technical or personal) will be taken seriously, and responded to appropriately and sympathetically in a timely way. Staff and mentors are actively involved in helping learners to make progress.

Practical, tailored, and learner-centred, our training methodologies are evidence-backed and results have been exceptional – especially for those where a more conventional college-based route into industry either hasn’t worked previously or just isn’t a good fit. Engagement rates are significantly higher than industry-average and the current programme has been transformative for our learners’ self-confidence, skills, wellbeing, and growth mindsets. To date, more than two thirds of those taking part in our initial pilot have found a role in the digital industry.

Perhaps most importantly, taking an active role in our learners’ journeys allows us to directly address the purpose of Ufi's VocTech Challenge, with consistent messaging which directly addresses learner confidence at each stage; and regular follow-ups from an extended team of coaches, mentors, and technical experts providing high quality professional, technical, and personal advice helping to further build each learners’ confidence.

Our initial LCOS prototype has made this happen. However, whilst effective this prototype is highly inefficient – manually administered, spreadsheet-based, poorly integrated, and requiring a great deal of attention from our team. Maintaining the underlying system – which our programme relies on to deliver high quality outcomes – has now become a key bottleneck, and the main impediment to growing the impact of our programme further.

Gather’s next-generation solution will help us to overcome these challenges and power the next leap forward: converting hard-won staff insight into software, raising team productivity, leveraging the many strengths of community-powered and peer-led learning, and dramatically lowering cost-per-participant; unlocking the path to rapid UK-wide scale.

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