Guest Blog – And so the connecting begins…

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I still remember the moment when I left [Capgemini UK Chairman] Christine Hodgson’s office with her words of advice ringing in my ears about the new role I was embarking on, still not quite sure that I had been given the opportunity to spend the next 12-months discovering how much the Lambeth of my youth […]

I still remember the moment when I left [Capgemini UK Chairman] Christine Hodgson’s office with her words of advice ringing in my ears about the new role I was embarking on, still not quite sure that I had been given the opportunity to spend the next 12-months discovering how much the Lambeth of my youth had changed, finding worthy causes to support, and generally doing as much good as I could pack into my time there. What a great start to the year!

I set about finding out as much about Lambeth, Business In The Community (my new host charity as well as the other charities supported by Prince Charles), and all the good work that Capgemini had been doing within the sustainability, community, and education space for many years. There was a lot to soak up, but I was very much a ‘motivated sponge’ as I felt compelled to ensure that I was armed with all the statistics, data, and information I could access as well as building new networks which I could begin to leverage as I progressed.

I took Christine’s advice and decided on two target outcomes which I could become knowledgeable and ‘famous’ for championing within the Lambeth borough after speaking to local residents, small business, charities and local statutory authorities – 1. Enhancing employability conversion rates by 5% (among those who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and the over 50s); 2. Enhancing digital foot-fall for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 5%.

I set about learning all I could about how employability programmes were delivered within Lambeth and elsewhere, to get a sense of ‘what good looks like’ as well as getting to know which providers had a good reputation and why. I discovered that there were pockets of really good provision and providers, but the quality and impact was patchy and almost always really tough to replicate without any obvious platform or mechanism for collaboration.

My Pilot Brainwave..
This presented a challenge and a possible opportunity which came to a head when I was asked to take part in a Race for Opportunities and the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pilot ‘Employer Mentoring Circle’ initiative to include Capgemini alongside nine other employers (including Google, TfL, Thames Water, and the Army..) to be hosted within a Jobcentre in Brixton specifically aimed at 18-25yr old Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) claimants. We were asked to be innovative about how we translated our corporate talent messages to a group that had potentially no clear concept of what Capgemini do, the kind of roles and opportunities we had and those which may be open to them through either a graduate or apprenticeship application channel.

I quickly realised that a PowerPoint presentation and a traditional interview skills mentoring approach wasn’t going to work when I asked each of the 11 attendees to share what their expectations were of the workshop. All of the young people just wanted to be able to talk to a ‘real’ employer, ask specific questions about their work readiness or specific applications they were making or had made without success and in so doing gain a better understanding of why they were failing to secure work.

I chose to use an approach which looked at surfacing blockers to employment and engaging the young people in methods to solve them with some mentoring support from volunteers. This worked so well I began to develop the approach with DWP, Lambeth Council, Capgemini and a few of their alliance partners as well as a number of specialist delivery providers to create a ‘readiness for work’ curriculum delivered within a physical space tailored to supporting digital and face-to-face training and development programmes. We called it the Digisheds programme.

Digisheds is a go..
Digisheds launched in Brixton on September 2nd with it’s first cohort of 18 claimants referred from the Jobcentre. It’s a unique and innovative programme that provides jobs for individuals falling within the categories of BAMEs, NEETs, 50+, Lone Parents, and the Long Term Unemployed. Based within a space donated by DWP at the Brixton Jobcentre Plus the initiative provides locally enhanced employability, enterprise and social innovation programmes to help maximise off-flow into employment, reduce economic inactivity and support community cohesion.

The target outcome is to achieve the transition into paid work (a job outcome) for at least 40% of the cohort of 240 Claimants (20 per month) who complete the 13-week programme. The Digisheds team integrates Employer-led talent development programmes with a Service Provider-led curriculum, delivering a personalised end-to-end solution supporting and preparing existing Claimants for the world of work such that they are likely to retain and perform in employment.

Delivered by Fixers (a youth social action charity), Kaleidoscope Sabre (a mental health specialist provider), TIN-Think Innovation, and Inner-i (a development SME with experience working to raise the aspirations of NEETs) supported by a range of local providers and initiatives (Digibuddies, Good People @TheShard, Creative Society) the Digisheds collaborative partnership working approach:

1.       Seeks to make the most of investment, particularly the use of public money, by creating more impactful programmes through the collaboration and harmonisation of local and national service provider programmes with the requirements of employers and statutory bodies to enable Claimants to achieve a sustainable (beyond 26 weeks) job outcome.
2.       Offers within the purpose-built physical space a Personalised Development Pathway for Claimants which reduces the costs of procuring Service Providers individually, and by working together to pool knowledge and expertise, outcomes achieved are more effective and sustainable than the Service Providers are able to achieve individually.
3.       Enables the use of technology to deliver an innovative digital and physical experience for both Claimants and Community Users aimed at increasing proficiency and confidence in utilising IT to solve challenges, as well as improving their soft skills and group working capability.
4.       Ensures each session has been extended beyond delivery of the core ‘readiness for work’ skills of more traditional employability programmes to include employer volunteers, and service providers working together to remove barriers related to circumstances, well-being, or mental health.
The programme is structured as a 4 week curriculum which aims to:
1.       Achieve Core Delivery Outputs by:
·         Combining employer-led core skills training with mental well-being delivered as a personalised curriculum
·         Creation of tailor-made and self created experiences to build upon
·         Focusing on driving personal motivation
·         Development of additional enterprise and social innovation capability and expertise
2.       Achieve Enhanced Outputs with:
·         Access to digital and physical Information and knowledge resources
·         Ongoing training, mentoring and personal development
·         Self-created employability tools and ongoing support
·         Contribution to a locally agreed vision for Personalised Development Pathways
·         Additional local targets integrated when required
3.       Achieve DWP Outcomes by:
·         Throughput of 240 claimants with 40% achieving a job outcome within 13-weeks
·         Influencing and changing current employability and personal development practice
·         Ensuring Claimants become more self sufficient
·         Transition and employment planning is embedded, ensuring Claimants don’t fall by the wayside
·         Raising expectations and aspirations and providing support to develop, maintain and keep the dialogue going between Claimants, DWP job advisers and employers.

Impact Counts..
I have leveraged our existing relationship with The Open University to commission an evaluation of the Digisheds initiative led by Simon Bell Professor of Innovation and Methodology who will complete the first stage by the end of November 2014. We hope to scale this programme up to enable a national framework agreement to be completed with the DWP and the evaluation report will go some way to showcasing the impact this new style employability hub has on the local community and some of its most vulnerable residents.
Please come down and get involved. Contact me at or


Alex Cole is a Senior Transition Manager with Capgemini UK and is currently on assignment with Business in the Community (BITC) as a Business Connector. Alex joined Capgemini in 2010 and has led the transition of global services within large outsourcing contracts into our Infrastructure Services business.
When Capgemini agreed to fund a BITC Business Connector assignment, Alex jumped at the opportunity because it was a chance to work in the community and show that business can make a real impact for good.

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