Digital Futures Programme rolling out to Thames Valley schools

Jan 29, 2024

Trust partners gather together at the DFP roll-out launch at UTC Reading.

ALET’s award-winning education Digital Futures Programme, designed to give students a head start into digital careers, is rolling out to all three of the Trust’s University Technical Colleges – UTC Reading, UTC Swindon and UTC Oxfordshire – following its successful launch at UTC Heathrow.

The Digital Futures Programme, which launched in 2021 at UTC Heathrow, was developed in close collaboration with leading digital infrastructure industry employers and is a first for any UK school. Aimed at 14-19-year-olds, the programme, which contributes to a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma / Extended Diploma in Engineering (NQF), equips students with the essential knowledge and skills needed to thrive in technical careers within the digital infrastructure industry, comprising the network cabling and data centre sectors and other digital environments.

The Digital Futures Programme has been a big success, winning three global awards and already seeing graduates take up apprenticeships with industry partners. ALET is therefore delighted to be rolling out the programme to three of UTC Heathrow’s sister schools – UTC Reading, UTC Oxfordshire and UTC Swindon. Just like with UTC Heathrow, our industry partners will not only provide support in developing the curriculum but also by giving valuable time to deliver a mix of employer-led projects, challenge days, masterclasses and skills workshops to the students as part of the programme.

The roll-out was announced at an event attended by nine of the employer partners – (Amazon Web Services, ARK Data Centres, CBRE, CNet Training, CyrusOne, Digital Realty, LMG, Virtus Data Centres and Yondr) – at UTC Reading on Friday 26 January.

Mike Halliday, Head of Employer Engagement at ALET, who has been instrumental in getting the programme off the ground, said: “ALET is playing a critical part in building a skills pipeline essential to the UK economy to be competitive in the digital world. The Digital Futures Programme represents a unique opportunity for industry to be engaged at a programmatic level to transform the lives of younger people.”

Jo Harper, CEO of ALET, said: “The UK is facing an unprecedented skills shortage: we need engineers, computer scientists and other digitally-skilled staff. The Digital Futures Programme is focused on equipping students with the skills to succeed in the digital industries, bringing together companies which are serious about acting to address the skills shortage with STEM-focused schools with specialisms in digital, engineering and science prepared to forge a new path for their students.”

What do our employer partners say?

Andrew Stevens, CEO, CNet Training: “Following our overwhelming success with the Digital Futures Programme at UTC Heathrow, CNet Training is delighted to be supporting the roll-out of the programme across three further sites as a Trust partner of ALET UTCs. The expansion will enable many more young people to access this world-first digital infrastructure focused curriculum, aligning with CNet’s ongoing drive to encourage industry organisations to work together to tackle the talent shortage while teaching the skills and knowledge required to start successful careers within the digital infrastructure industry.”

Matt Pullen, EVP and MD Europe, CyrusOne: “The Digital Futures Programme is a great source of pride for everyone at CyrusOne and our involvement has been as fulfilling for us as it has been for the students we have supported. Helping the next generation understand how the data centre sector works, and the opportunities available in it, is fundamental to developing the future talent that the digital economy needs to continue to grow, innovate and meet its sustainable objectives. We are delighted to be able to support the expansion of the Digital Futures Programme and support students to achieve their potential within in the technology sector.”

Mike Hook, owner, LMG: ““Following the great experience we’ve had over the past two years, we are incredibly excited to be part of the expansion of the Digital Futures Programme to three more schools across the Thames Valley. We have seen the results of the programme with the success achieved by our first intake of UTC Heathrow student apprentices, who have already had a hugely positive impact on our business. The Digital Futures Programme really is a win-win for employers, students, UTCs and the UK digital infrastructure industry as a whole”.

Brad Boundy, Head of Technical Facilities, Ark Data Centres: “With the rapid expansion of the data centre industry, where future engineers are coming from is often in the back of my mind and the Digital Futures Programme is providing the foundation for ensuring we have the people to fulfil these roles. The Digital Futures Programme provides knowledge and insight that can encourage students to join us in the fast-paced world of data centres.  I am excited for the expansion of the Digital Futures Programme into Reading, Swindon and Oxfordshire and how we can work with ALET to develop a pathway for their students into roles within the data centre industry.”

Richard Oosterom, Director of Operations, UK & Ireland, Digital Realty: “At Digital Realty we are very excited to be taking part in this initiative. We see it as a way to contribute to the education of our current generation, to promote the data centre sector, which is increasingly important for the digital economy, and as a source of development for our staff. It’s a win-win for all.”

Paul Hood, COO, Yondr: “We are delighted and honoured to be part of a programme that is making a difference to educate the younger generation on the skills that are required and the opportunities that exist within the data centre industry. The Digital Futures Programme will help us bridge the talent gap that we currently have and build a platform for the future as the industry continues to grow exponentially across the globe. As a company our people also learn from the experience and enjoy every moment of working with the students.”

Anna Marriott, SVP People & Organisation, VIRTUS: “We’re proud to be a Trust partner of the UTC Digital Futures Programme and we’re very excited about the expansion of the Digital Futures Programme into three additional UTCs. This significant milestone reaffirms our commitment to shaping the future of the data centre industry by growing the next generation of talent through direct employer-student engagement and helping develop their workplace-relevant skills. It also highlights the long-term impact we can make on the broader industry through collaboration with partner companies. Our staff are huge fans of the programme and really enjoy the positive input they can give to the future talent of our industry.”

Matt Farrant, Global COO, CBRE: “As a founding partner, I’m proud to announce our continued support to the Digital Future Programme with UTCs across the wider ALET network. Skills development is critical for both the data centre industry and future employment needs. By actively engaging with UTC students through learning intervention, we are able to provide practical support, give insights to the business and share the work that we do at CBRE. In 2024 we will be working on enhancing our approach to career pathways and apprenticeships for college graduates.”

Joanne ReynoldsAWS: “We are proud to support the expansion of the Digital Futures programme to UTCs in Reading, Swindon and Oxfordshire. The programme has been a great success since its 2021 launch in UTC Heathrow, helping to address a critical skills gap and create career opportunities for young people in our local communities. We are excited to see the programme grow and strengthen the digital infrastructure industry in the UK.”

See more about the Digital Futures Programme here:

If you are employer interested in finding out how you can become involved with the programme, please email

Our Partners