FutureSPARK Academy, a partnership scheme between Bath College and local tech companies that has seen students gain industry experience and secure employment, returns for a second year.

Last year SearchStar, Gradwell, Memberoo, Deep Blue Sky and Modus Nova all opened their doors to ‘adopt’ a student to help build a pipeline of future talent and address the skills shortage. This year the college is looking for more companies that are interested in offering 3-month placements for two days a week to hand-picked students from a variety of courses including computing, media and graphics.

“Any tech business in the South West will know how difficult it can be to find and recruit confident and capable developers”


After receiving feedback from the companies and the students, 100% of those involved would definitely do it again, and a high percentage of the students were employed after their term had ended.

Jess Docherty, relationship manager at web development business Deep Blue Sky, embraces the scheme, “Any tech business in the South West will know how difficult it can be to find and recruit confident and capable developers. The FutureSPARK Academy has proven an effective way of identifying talent in the area.” Their FutureSPARK student, Lawrence Pritchard, (pictured third right with Deep Blue Sky’s Dan Hoff, Jake Wade and Thierry Draper) is currently finishing his placement term.

FutureSPARK student at Deepbluesky

“Long term we see this as a pre-employment programme bridging the gap between the college course and the workplace”


There are plans to build on this success. With Bath being a hub of creative talent and the digital industry growing at a rapid rate, the college aims to highlight the bright sparks of the future in their own patch. Bath College’s Amy Patterson, employability advisor of digital and creative tech, says, “Working closely with employers’ needs during this development time will enable us to build a template that we can improve on and apply again, bigger, next year.”

Meet the students

Gradwell, a VoIP phone services, fibre broadband and cloud solutions provider took on two FutureSPARKers. We caught up with one of them, Lamin Sanyang, who was also hired by the company, to find out what he had learned: “It has helped me open new doors and paths to where I want to get to – customer service is a key skill in everything we do, and also get to know more about Voice over Internet Communication and how it works.”

“The students are high achievers… and those we are confident are able to complete their college work alongside their placement”


Lamin is not alone in his FutureSPARK success, Amy tells us, “Only students who have already proven their commitment to their existing course and enrichment activities will be offered the chance to be a member of the academy. The students are high achievers from our Level 3 (equivalent to A Level), HNC and Foundation Degree course, and those we are confident are able to complete their college work alongside their placement.”

FutureSPARK student with Gradwell employees
FutureSPARK and Gradwell: New employee Lamin Sanyang, second left with
Gradwell’s Jason Spencer, Martin Lippiatt and George the Gradwell avatar

Senior front end developer Jake Wade from Deep Blue Sky says about the scheme, “We really believe in offering opportunities where possible, and are ecstatic both FutureSPARK and Lawrence helped prove this is easy and achievable – I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Academy!”

Using an adoption scheme 

The college makes the scheme as flexible as possible to your company, their guidelines recommend ‘adopting’ the student for 2 to 3 days for an average of three months, but they are open to discussing shorter, one-off periods if a student could, for example, help with a particular up-coming project.

“[The experience was] very smooth with easy integration in to how we work”


Jack Sladek, senior account manager at SearchStar, a leading independent PPC and digital media agency who also employed a FutureSPARK student, confirms this, “[The experience was] very smooth with easy integration in to how we work.”

FutureSPARK student Jamie with SearchStar employees

FutureSPARK and SearchStar: SearchStar’s Callum Taylor, Lucy Morris,
FutureSPARK student – Jamie Bevan, and Jack Sladek

Amy says, “We are hoping that the better the student gets to know the company and the longer they work together, the more opportunities may be found for collaboration, with students representing companies at events and participating on client-facing projects.”

So much more

As part of the partnership, companies who take part will gain access to the latest tech talent allowing you to vet and train your student specifically for the gaps you may need to plug in your business, now or in the future.

Megan intern at MemberooNot only that, but Elspeth, senior marketeer at Memberoo – the loyalty app for businesses of all sizes – tells us, “We are a little short on meeting space and being able to hold one of our board meetings at the college was brilliant and wasn’t something we’d considered when we first signed up to take part.” Elspeth goes on to say, “She [FutureSPARK Megan, pictured right] was also an asset to the office, helping us with testing our product.”

Martin Lippiatt, quality assurance officer at Gradwell, enjoyed the networking opportunities, “It was nice to visit the Futures hub (which I am now a member of) to get an introduction to the scheme. I was able to meet and talk to students as well as other local employers.”

There is also minimal cost to the company: “We understand that agreeing to take on a student is costly in terms of time and organisation,” says Amy, “particularly in the early stages, and we appreciate this. Therefore there is no obligation for the companies to pay their placement students.”

Have your own FutureSPARK experience

With many of the students ready to join in the scheme this year keen to get involved and already developing their own tech ideas and ambitions, this will be a great chance for companies to find them early.

If this sounds like something your company would be keen to get involved in, please get in touch with Amy on 07811 980581 or at amy.patterson@bathcollege.ac.uk.