Earlier this month, the Mayor of London announced the launch of a new £7m programme aimed at attracting more young people – and particularly female and BAME Londoners – into the digital sector.
The Digital Talent Programme will offer free industry-approved digital skills training to more than 1,000 young people, including coding, web development, digital marketing and visual effects.
Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal speaks to ROK about the aims of the scheme, and why he believes mentoring is so important for raising aspirations.

What does your role as Deputy Mayor for Business entail?
As Deputy Mayor for Business I speak to businesses of all sizes and entrepreneurs from all industries – primarily, this involves understanding their needs and concerns around Brexit and their continuing access to talent. Internationally, I bang the drum for the capital and ensure that everyone knows that, come what may, London is open for business.

The Mayor recently launched the Digital Talent Programme. What is the aim of the initiative?
London’s digital and tech industry is the envy of the world and a major part of our economy. We need to ensure the workforce of the future has the skills to meet the needs of London’s businesses – the Mayor’s Digital Talent Programme will find and develop the next generation of tech talent to ensure this sector goes from strength to strength in the years to come.

Why do you think that there is a lack of BAME representation in the digital and tech industries at the moment?
The lack of diversity in the tech sector is a pipeline issue, and one that can only be addressed through effective, targeted intervention at different stages. That’s why the Mayor has launched the Digital Talent programme. 
A key part of the Programme is to address the under-representation of BAME Londoners in these roles – the Mayor and I are determined to do all we can to tackle this and open up these careers to all Londoners, regardless of their background. This is especially important to young people who are unsure about traditional academic pathways and would like to explore creative, vocational opportunities.

What more do you think should be done to raise the aspirations of young people from BAME and working class backgrounds in London more generally? Doesmentoring plays a role?
Role models and mentoring play a huge part in raising aspirations. As the saying goes: “You can’t be what you can’t see” – which is why the Digital Talent Programme shares the experience of young Londoners from a range of backgrounds. 
By promoting positive role models and establishing links between young people and digital pioneers, we’re enabling the next generation of tech talent to see themselves doing something they may not have thought possible.

Find out more about the Digital Talent Programme