International digital services provider Netcompany has collaborated with Ahead Partnership to host the final of its youth engagement programme, the Smart Cities Challenge.
160 year eight students from four schools across Leeds, including Corpus Christi, Dixons Unity Academy, Mount St Mary’s and The Ruth Gorse Academy, took part in the nine-week programme, designed and delivered by leading ESG partner Ahead Partnership. The students learned about how technology is used in cities like Leeds and how smart technology could be used there in the future, including the role of AI, driverless cars and robotic surgeons in creating healthier cities that prioritise wellbeing.
They were then tasked with designing a smart city of the future based on their learnings. Volunteers from Netcompany held mentoring sessions with the young people and supported them with their designs throughout the programme. After winning their school’s round, one team from each school competed in the grand finale held at Avenue HQ in Leeds.
At the final, the students presented their concepts in front of a panel of judges from Netcompany and NHS Digital. After a nervous wait, the team from Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School were announced as the winners, with the judges highlighting their charismatic presentation style, and the thought and consideration that went into their innovative ideas for a future smart city, particularly how technology could be used to improve health, shorten GP wait times and even fix broken bones.
The programme has had an amazing impact on the young people involved, 100% of students said they developed their speaking and listening skills, and 97% said they developed their skills in representing themselves. A year eight student who took part in the final said, “I liked it being competitive and I learned how to speak with confidence under pressure,” with another student saying, “It gave me a sense of accomplishment.”
Netcompany began working with Ahead Partnership in 2021 by sponsoring its Growing Talent Digital Leeds programme, which seeks to help ease the digital skills gap by harnessing the combined resources of different employers to encourage young people to pursue a career in digital.
After seeing the success and impact the programme had, Ahead Partnership worked with them to create the Smart Cities Challenge, a bespoke programme designed to meet their social value objectives and the skills need of the local community. Both programmes help to build a strong pipeline of future talent with digital skills for businesses across the city.