Develop Me logo
Incorporated in October 2014, Develop Me has been addressing the digital and tech skills gaps in Bristol-based businesses for the last 18 months. They are just about to start the first cohort of their 12 week Coding Fellowship programme, and we caught up with them to find out more.

Number of employees: 3 full time and a network of freelance instructors.

Length of time in Enterprise Zone: 18 months. We run all of our one day workshops at the Engine Shed and will be moving into the Paintworks in May for the start of our Coding Fellowship programme.

Why did you choose the Enterprise Zone for your business? The Enterprise Zone is a hub for the digital, tech and creative companies we work with in Bristol, so it seemed like a natural home for our business as we work closely with these companies to upskill their workforces and create new routes into the industries they’re part of.

How did Develop Me come about? Develop Me came about from our shared experience of how the digital skills gap was holding back the local digital and tech industries.

Before Develop Me, we all worked in and with digital businesses in Bristol and Bath. It had become increasingly difficult to find skilled employees (particularly web developers), and so we decided to start working towards creating a solution, whilst helping upskill existing digital teams along the way.

Over the last 18 months we’ve trained 170 individuals from 34 different companies including BBC, Sift and Mubaloo in areas including web development, design and User Experience (UX).


Founders and director of Develop Me

The Develop Me team. From left to right: Al Kennedy (director), Oli Ward (founder and instructor) and Pete New (founder)

So what’s the Coding Fellowship? The ‘Coding Fellowship’ is an intensive full-time programme that will transform students into professional web developers over a 12 week taught element, which is followed by up to 12 weeks in a paid work placement. They then get support in finding a job upon graduation.

The programme is unique and combines an industry-informed curriculum, developed and delivered by industry experts, ‘real world’ live projects and work placements with local digital businesses.

All of this is brought together as a small cohort embedded at the heart of the tech community in the Enterprise Zone.

Why was it created? The programme has been developed as a direct response to the ever-growing digital and tech skills gaps. According to the Departments for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are currently suffering from tech skills gaps.

The industry is going through a huge and sustained period of growth, becoming an ever more important part of the UK economy; the Tech Partnership predicts nearly 28% growth over the 2015 to 2025 period. The numbers coming through traditional education routes aren’t nearly enough, as 171,000 new recruits are predicted to be required for tech specialist careers every year between now and 2025. The graduates are often not very well equipped to make an immediate impact, due to the rapid changes of technologies used in industry.

According to a new report published in February this year by Tech City UK and Nesta, there are 36,547 digital jobs in the South West region so the sector is bringing well-paid, skilled workers to our economy – making Bristol and Bath the most productive tech cluster in the UK.

We’ve created a programme that’s directly shaped by industry needs, that’s agile enough to be able to change as those needs change, that’s delivered by industry professionals and which provides a fast track directly into industry.

How is it different to other options out there? This is the first programme of its kind in the South West, but there are a couple of examples of similar models in London and a hugely successful industry over in the US.

It made sense to us that, with such a need for web developers and people with digital skills, a programme offering commercially relevant skills, links with industry, paid work placements and help securing work at the end of it all, offered something really valuable and pretty unique.


One of Develop Me's workshops

Students at one of Develop Me’s workshops

What’s next for the Fellowship? Our first cohort starts in May.

As a social business we also have a mission to provide opportunities with our partners to find ways to provide access to digital skills learning for everyone. We’re currently trying to create scholarship places (focussed on diversity) in each cohort and to make this possible we need to secure funding from industry and skills organisations, so there’s a big push around that at the moment for us.

We’ll also be scaling up over the coming year and running 4 cohorts per year.

How can I find out more? You can find out more about Develop Me and our Coding Fellowship programme on our website.

We have information packs available too – email to request one or to arrange a coffee to discuss in person.

You can also find us on Twitter @develop_me_uk.