New Futures in Belfast: Technology Employment Academy

By Michael Kane, Professional & Business Services sector leader at Belfast City Council


20 12 2022


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Belfast City Council was selected by Learning and Work Institute (L&W) to run a New Futures pilot in Northern Ireland, to test what support people need to successfully switch their career into tech. Our engagement with local tech employers has revealed both a skills shortage and lack of supply of talent in Belfast’s growing tech sector. Employers are being challenged on whether they truly need higher-level qualifications as a pre-requisite to being successful in tech, or if there’s a different way forward to address the skills gap.

To explore this, we have invested in a demand-led, Technology Employment Pilot Academy to explore an innovative employment pathway to equip career changers with skills and qualifications so they can compete for employment opportunities within the tech sector.

The first 16-week, full-time Academy, ran in partnership with local recruiting employers Citi and Allstate, took place from June to September 2022. Our outreach activity, including in-person information events across the city with the recruiting employers present, extensive stakeholder engagement and social media activity, led to over 100 applications for the 15 places advertised. After aptitude assessments and interviews, 17 were accepted and started the Academy. We had a very diverse group made up of 35% women, ranging from under 30 to over 50 years old, 40% self-reporting a disability or illness and a mixture of educational achievements. Those who successfully completed the Academy programme were guaranteed a job interview for a live position.

We celebrated some excellent results from the first Academy:

  • 11 career changers who had been impacted by Covid-19 completed the Academy;
  • of these, 9 have gone into immediate employment and;
  • their starting salaries ranged from £23,000 – £28,500.

Further employability support is being provided to the remaining participants, including support with job applications, CVs and interview preparation.

All participants were deemed employable by the participating employers, who were restricted only by the number of roles on offer.

Case studies

We all love stories, and I cannot resist sharing one of my favourite case studies below from Gerald, which really underlines what New Futures is all about.

This is followed by a couple of example LinkedIn posts from Academy graduates and a photograph from the graduation event, with the Lord Mayor of Belfast.

I was a barber since leaving school up until three years ago. I no longer felt fulfilled as a barber so I explored opportunities to help move me into working in technology, but I found it very difficult to secure work. I attended job interviews and wasn’t successful. This affected my confidence and made it more difficult to find a job. I applied for the Academy to help me develop my tech skills and build my confidence to attend an interview and hopefully secure a job. I really enjoyed the course, it helped to reinforce and develop further my existing skills to make them more relevant for going forward into the workplace. The work experience on the Academy was one of the highlights for me, giving me a better understanding of what working in IT looked like. On completing the Academy and with all the support given to me, I got a job with Allstate as a Software Developer. I am beyond delighted. I am nervous and excited. I have always felt that on paper I have the necessary skills that a lot of companies are looking for, but I have never really had the opportunity, until now, to demonstrate that. Looking forward to starting my new career.
Copy of HLW23Sponsor logos (2)


In light of the positive outcomes generated so far from the pilot, I intend to move forward, as soon as circumstances permit, with another Academy and a larger cohort. Employer engagement is ongoing to secure commitment to enable us to support more people whose careers have been impacted by Covid-19 and want to make the move into tech. Our first Academy has shown that reskilling can work and alternative employment pathways into new sectors benefits both career changers and employers alike.

By Michael Kane, Professional & Business Services sector leader at Belfast City Council