FastFutures launches a ground-breaking digital skills programme, backed by leading global employers to prevent a lost generation

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  • FastFutures is a ground-breaking digital and personal skills programme, coaching education leavers on vital workplace skills, backed by leading global employers to help secure part or full-time employment
  • Aiming to provide tens of thousands of free places annually, with inaugural 12-week programme launching with 1,000 free places
  • The programme will be a critical part of the national effort to turbocharge the country’s COVID-19 economic and productivity recovery, bridging the gap between education and employment, and supporting existing government initiatives
  • Designed to appeal to and prioritise underrepresented groups using a transformative approach to deliver a diverse group of participants and help address inequalities across the workforce
  • A unique skills and experience programme that bridges the transition for young people from education to employment, empowering them with the business, technology, data, finance and personal life skills that UK employers need to create opportunities for this generation.   The holistic (virtual and physical, supported by tutors) learning experience builds skills in the context of working life, giving young people unprecedented access to leading employers through virtual business visits, live CEO Q&A sessions and an employer-led mentoring programme, culminating in an employer interview to prepare every young person for beginning their working life.
  • Founding employers include a cross sectoral group of the biggest and most innovative companies in the world alongside start-ups and scale-ups: AstraZeneca, Agilisys,, Barclays, Blenheim Chalcot, BT, Legal & General, Modulr, Health Education England and its partner NHS bodies, Octopus Group, Salary Finance and Tate & Lyle. These employers have provided the investment and content to create this unique programme.

FastFutures is a unique programme designed to provide participants with the skills employers value now and in the future, futureproofing careers and limiting a potentially damaging skills gap for this generation entering employment. The programme is fully scalable and aims to provide tens of thousands of free places annually. The inaugural 12-week programme is being launched with 1,000 free places funded by the founding employers. Additional cohorts of a similar sizes are expected in the months ahead as more businesses partners join the programme.

COVID-19 has resulted in limited available internships and work placements which traditionally provide the vital experiences and business skills that help to secure full-time employment. For the first and most important 6 months of their working lives, this generation is facing an employment wasteland before employers start to hire again in early 2021. FastFutures will provide this age-group with a bridge from education to career opportunities, with a programme specifically designed to develop the skills most valued by employers, both today and in the years’ to come.

The UK has never seen a greater demand, nor an immediate requirement, for digital skills. FastFutures will help to solve this critical shortage, preparing individuals as companies accelerate to a digital workplace. There is a grave risk that the COVID-19 impact will inflict a double blow on our workforce: a wasted generation and a crippling shortage of the digital and technology skills that the UK vitally needs to kick-start its economic recovery.

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to FastFutures. The programme will use a carefully tailored, and fully inclusive recruitment process to appeal to and prioritise underrepresented groups to deliver a diverse cohort of participants. To encourage diversity across the participant pool, recruitment will focus on cognitive ability over verbal and numerical reasoning, helping to assess potential and talent. FastFutures is partnering with outreach networks to encourage under-represented groups to apply from a truly diverse range of ethnic, socio-economic, geographical and gender identities. This transformative approach is critical to helping to address inequalities across the workforce and promoting social mobility.

FastFutures has been designed in collaboration with its founding employers to ensure the skills developed are those in demand from employers. Successful applicants will learn practical, business-focused skills via a 12-week programme, alongside site visits to founding employer workplaces, coaching and mentoring from business experts. Modules include a practical business project, the role of data in a commercial setting, marketing, the importance of teamwork, and a basic understanding of finance. Online modules will be taught through set weekly learning hours, in addition to collaborative workshops, group projects and seminars, all using Avado’s connected learning platform. Coupled with this, mentors, provided by founding employers, will advise on the softer skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

The founding employers, AstraZeneca, Agilisys,, Barclays, Blenheim Chalcot, BT, Legal & General, Modulr, Health Education England and its partner NHS bodies, Octopus Group, Salary Finance and Tate & Lyle, have committed the financial resources to ensure that this programme is free for all participants, enabling any individual to apply regardless of circumstance and background. The employers will also provide mentor support across the programme and have guaranteed job interviews with employment opportunities for those that are successful through their assessment processes.

FastFutures is being launched by Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading digital venture builder, and will be delivered by Avado, the country’s leading digital vocational skills provider, supported by Hive Learning to enable a modern, social learning experience.   We are also working with the Local Enterprise Partnership Network so see how LEPs’ existing skills infrastructure could be deployed to speed up implementation and extend FastFuture’s reach to young people at a local level.

Applications for the first cohort of the programme open today, 23rd July 2020 , closing on 13th August 2020, and as additional employers join we will be able to open up applications for the next cohorts throughout this year. Further details are available at

John Allan, Chairman of COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, commented:

“As Chairman of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Commission, I fully support this programme which will enable young people to develop the skills to help them get into the world of work following the pandemic.”

Mnoj Badale, Co-Founder of Blenheim Chalcot, commented:

“FastFutures is the kind of programme that the UK, its young people and its organisations need right now. We have focused on digital, business and personal skills that employers most demand. We have also built an operational model that can scale, as more employers join. And the programme has the potential to accelerate government initiatives, such as apprenticeships and the new kick start initiative.”

Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado, commented:

“I’m delighted to be launching FastFutures alongside our employer and outreach partners. It’s a truly unique programme that will give young people from all backgrounds the chance to gain not just skills – but the skills the employers really value and want, as well as a network of connections, and the confidence and mindset to succeed in a business environment. We can’t wait to welcome our first cohort of learners [and many more after that].”

Tom Keith-Roach, President, AstraZeneca UK, commented:

“This is an important and exciting program.  As the UK’s leading investor in research and development, it’s already clear that integrated data and technology will transform the way we do science, change healthcare delivery and improve outcomes for patients.  We’re committed to building a diverse pipeline of future leaders and creating opportunities for inspired young people from a range of backgrounds to step up, be part of the change, and accelerate UK innovation as we emerge from this pandemic”.

John Roberts, AO Founder and Chief Executive, said:

“Talent is evenly distributed but opportunity isn’t. Covid has widened that gulf. We know young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer life chances and being digitally disconnected compounds disadvantage.  It’s easy to talk social mobility but harder to create initiatives that make a difference, so I’m delighted AO is taking a leading role in the ambitious work of Fast Futures. With working remotely the new normal and more customers than ever choosing online, equipping youngsters with digital and business skills they don’t get at school will help them secure quality jobs that are vital to economic recovery.”

Philip Jansen, Chief Executive, BT, commented:

“We are proud to be a Founding Partner of the FastFutures programme, supporting young people from all backgrounds to develop the skills and confidence needed to kick start their careers. These are exceptionally challenging times and this programme builds on BT’s strong track record of tackling the digital divide and supporting people into the workplace. Digital and tech skills are more important than ever and it is vital that we all play our part in enabling the next generation to thrive and helping to drive a sustainable, inclusive economic recovery in the UK.”  

Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive, Legal & General commented:

“The post-COVID economic recovery must be skills and investment-led. L&G has already invested over £25bn in UK cities, infrastructure and exciting new industries, and FastFutures now provides a complementary way to invest in people and skills – so no-one is left behind when our economy picks up. It’s a brilliant initiative and as Inclusive Capitalists we support it wholeheartedly.” 

Mark Bretton, Chair, Local Enterprise Network, commented:

“A programme that supports and enables our young people to gain the digital and personal skills they’ll need for their future careers is a great initiative. The fact it’s backed by some of the leading businesses in the UK and prioritises underrepresented groups will target those who need it most. We look forward to working with the programme team to see how LEPs can use our existing, proven skills infrastructure to accelerate implementation and help our young people to access the opportunities they deserve.”

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation, NHS Health Education England, commented:

“Health Education England and its partner NHS bodies, including NHSX, are delighted to support this initiative as a Founding Partner. It will be really beneficial in providing opportunities for all these young people, from all backgrounds, and preparing them for entering the workforce in this difficult environment. HEE has always supported the learning and development needs of young people and we hope that this initiative will help many of them to consider the NHS as a prospective employer in the digitally-led future.”

Simon Rogerson, CEO and co-founder of Octopus Group, commented:

“FastFutures is exactly the kind of initiative that we need to help jump-start our economic recovery. Young people are digital natives and if we can give them an opportunity to hone those skills in a business environment, where technology is critical to success, they will be in a really strong position to go out into the job market and begin their careers. The commitment to engaging with underrepresented groups is also incredibly important. We desperately need more diversity in business, and programmes like this are a great way to start tackling this issue from the ground up.”

Nick Hampton, Chief Executive, Tate & Lyle PLC, commented:

“The pandemic is having a big impact on the younger generation, so it’s very important that we open up opportunities for young people from all backgrounds and groups to develop their skills, be part of a network and prepare them to join the increasingly digital workplace. Tate & Lyle’s purpose is Improving Lives for Generations and so we are proud to support the FastFutures programme as a Founding Partner, and play our part in creating a diverse, digital-ready pool of talent for our country.” 

Ric Lewis, non-executive director, Legal & General, and member of FastFutures advisory Council, commented:

“This programme is exactly what is needed. It is more important than ever to help young people from a diverse range of backgrounds to develop the skills that will enable them to flourish in the workplace. I am proud to be a part of a programme that is aiming to help those who are most at risk of being left behind by the current economic slump.”

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