Schools challenge The Code returns to help bridge digital skills and diversity gap

Dentsu UK has partnered with Co-op on the initiative for 2021 – which is now in its fifth year

A popular training programme designed to help schools address the skills and diversity gap in digital industries is back for its fifth year. Dentsu UK’s flagship initiative, The Code, returns for 2021, partnering with Co-op to deliver another edition of the Rise Up Creative Challenge.

Designed in collaboration with talent specialist MyKindaFuture, the programme is open to students aged 15–18 from across the UK, striving to reach over 15,000 young people by the end of the year. So far, more than 11,000 candidates have taken part in The Code initiative.

After yesterday’s (17 March) launch, the programme is set to run for three months, and aims to help young people from minority and marginalised backgrounds get ‘a foot in the door’ to creative and digital industries. Last year, 61% of the initiative’s participants identified as female, while 52% derived from BAME backgrounds – both of which remain underrepresented demographics within tech and digital businesses.

“Businesses must step up and help bridge the ever-widening skills and attainment gap for disadvantaged students” – James Morris, dentsu

To facilitate this, dentsu will continue to work with 12 partner schools in areas with low social mobility, higher than average BAME representation and students on free school meals.

As part of the Rise Up Challenge this year, participants will be asked to devise a creative digital advertising campaign that tackles a real-life client brief. The event will see students work within the Co-op’s three areas of focus: community, healthy living, and a better world.

Both The Code and the Rise Up Challenge are designed to provide a platform from which future leaders and activists can share their ideas on how to ‘build back better’ following the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to confront the ongoing climate crisis.

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“The effect of the pandemic has been felt at every level of society – especially in education,” said James Morris, CEO of creative and chair of the DEI Council at dentsu. “Businesses must step up and help bridge the ever-widening skills and attainment gap for disadvantaged students. Co-op leads the way in supporting community actions. Together, we can take this further, by providing the essential training and access needed to provide a pathway to a future career in the creative industries.”

Programme candidates will have access to The Code’s digital curriculum, established last year in line with the knowledge and experience of dentsu’s digital, media and creative experts. Launched online, the curriculum was designed to address the lack of support for young people’s development throughout the coronavirus crisis. It offers access to mentors from both dentsu and Co-op, as well as on-demand video courses on topics such as data and audience insights in marketing.

Upon completion, entrants will present their campaigns to a team of expert judges – including dentsu’s James Morris, Co-op’s customer director Ali Jones, and Adweek’s UK bureau chief Stephen Lepitak. The winner will see their idea morph into reality and – along with the creators of three highly-commended entries – will receive work experience opportunities and other prizes from dentsu and Co-op.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with The Code programme to give students across the country an opportunity to come up with tangible ways to support their communities while at the same time opening up greater opportunities for their own futures.”

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