Skills shortages in the UK mean that vacancies in science, research, engineering and technology jobs are increasingly hard to fill. That’s why inspiring the next generation to study science, technology, engineering and maths and getting them fired up about a career in technology, media and telecoms (TMT) is vital. We’re tackling this head on – every year students from Deloitte’s One Million Futures partner schools are challenged to pitch a business idea that makes a game-changing difference based on our annual TMT Predictions research.
This year the schools had to create an innovative use for smart speakers in either retail, gaming, education or hospitality. Rebecca Headley and Kirsty Smith, both 17, from Cardinal Hume School in Gateshead near Newcastle upon Tyne, share their stories of being on the winning team.
Rebecca said “You would think that standing up to present our pitch to a panel of expert judges, which is a bit like being on Dragons’ Den, would be terrifying. But it wasn’t that bad, because we were confident that we were well-prepared. In fact, the hardest part was a test question about data protection which we were asked ahead of the finals. We all went blank.
“I think we were probably a little less nervous because we were up against two London schools in the grand final, so we didn’t really expect to win with our General Artificial Intelligence Assistant – or GAIA. The smart speaker helps those with special or additional educational needs by reading worksheets and exams aloud, scribing in place of humans and delivering content in a student’s first language. It uses behavioural and emotional analytics tools and the judges said it had the strongest business potential.
“But what really made the difference was our team of three mentors from Deloitte who were amazing – giving up time from their working day to help a group of 17 year olds. They not only shared some great feedback with us, they also gave us a lot of independence to develop our own idea while opening our eyes to possible opportunities for us in the future – it was really inspirational and helped us to believe in ourselves.
“While it’s great to have won, what is life-changing for all of us is what we have learned. We initially split up into three teams – research, business and technology - and so we had to communicate and collaborate to develop our ideas and present them, work out the costings and pricing and also to manage our time, juggling preparation for the Challenge with studying and revision … so many skills that will really benefit us all when applying to universities, apprenticeships and in our future careers.
“However, what I will always remember is the trip to London and our prize - going up The Shard to see the spectacular view! So a massive thank you to Deloitte. I now have a clearer idea of what I want to do, and I hope to work in the tech industry after university.”
Kirsty Smith is equally enthusiastic about the benefits saying: “The Challenge made me really think about the real-world application of what we study at school, something you don’t always get an opportunity to do. So I would say to any other students thinking of entering the Challenge “Go for it – it is a unique experience”. My eyes have been opened up to the diversity of roles in science-related jobs.”
Martin Errington, proud assistant head teacher at Cardinal Hume, added:
“Students rarely have opportunities to apply the skills and knowledge they are learning in contextual situations which is why this Challenge has reaped such huge dividends as well as raising the aspirations of our students.”