DUDE: A Digital Mindset for Young People for Employability

Mitha Rachel Jose

DUDE – Do Unlimited, extenD compEtence -project aims to support the employment of young people, who are at a risk of exclusion. The DUDE project’s primary goal is the transition of young people to the labor market. Digital technologies are a vital part of the value chain and operations of most software industries or businesses in general.

Technology is enhancing how companies operate, especially in the software industry. A skills-based approach to training expands skills that are flexible to future needs. It enables individuals to attain transferable skills and capabilities across different jobs, professions, and contexts, which are well-suited in the case of digital training. DUDE offers work-life-oriented tasks.

The person, who joins DUDE, gets support on their existing skills and polishes them to the next level of knowledge. In DUDE, tasks are collected from the companies in the Central Ostrobothnia region, such as website development or updating the existing website. The DUDE coaches assign these real tasks to our participants to improve their digital skills. After setting the task to the participant, the participant communicates directly with the company to discuss the task’s progress. The participant can have direct communication with the company, thereby improving their social and work-life skills. DUDE coaches will support the participant in this communication as needed. An advantage of direct contact between the participant and the company is that the participant can showcase their skills to the company personnel through peer-to-peer communication. If they are satisfied with the person’s skills, there is a probability of hiring the person for the company. The participant can also showcase their portfolio to other companies which can lead to employment.

Unaccessible picture.
Path to employment opportunities in DUDE. Picture: Mitha Rachel Jose.

Employability depends on a thorough understanding of digital skills. Applying digital skills will help people succeed and progress in the workplace in confidence. With a focus on unemployed people to upturn to employability, and the students of Centria, who faces challenges in obtaining internship from companies, DUDE is a great option to kickstart a career. When a new participant joins DUDE, the coaches check the strengths and weaknesses of the participant regarding field-specific and general skills. Coaches support them in improving the existing strengths and helps to improve on the challenging topics. This kind of encouragement increases the individual’s confidence level and digital efficacy. The encouragement process works through motivation, flexibility and fearlessness to do their task. The DUDE instructors will describe the task and schedule it together with the new participant. Once they’ve settled in, a Discord chat notification can remind them of their expected progress, connect them to other group participants and give them a heads-up on upcoming activities.

DUDE provides a comfortable working environment for the participants. The instructors at DUDE do their best to make the participants feel comfortable and confident to do their assigned tasks and produce excellent outcomes. DUDE offers a workplace environment to the participants with comfortable working environment, technology and a break room. Also, instructors create opportunities for the participants to succeed in their tasks.

Dude conducts weekly meetings to share the participant’s experiences working at DUDE, asking for feedback on onboarding experience and taking active measures when needed. DUDE educates the participants on workplace safety, workplace culture, codes of conduct, and how one can work in a team. It improves team culture and builds new work relationships. DUDE coaches do regular check-ins on the assigned task to ensure work progress. DUDE offers remote and hybrid work environments as well to ensure comfortability and flexibility to participate. These activities promote the participant’s well-being, productivity, and growth. Other factors include good working practices, relatable values, a supportive atmosphere, and a culture of trust. Positive working environment encourages the participants to perform at their best. These practices help the participant reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve well-being and morale.

DUDE experience is shaped by collaboration

DUDE can be illustrated by a few experiences.

Instance 1: There is a 3D printer at the DUDE office which broke. One day, a DUDE participant asked about it.

Participant: Why this 3D printer is not working?
DUDE Instructor: The printing head of the 3D printer broke.
Participant: Why is it not repaired?
DUDE Instructor:  I needed help finding the right person to repair it at DUDE.
DUDE Instructor: Can you repair it?
Participant: If you buy me the broken piece, I can repair it. But if something happens wrong, I am not responsible.
DUDE Instructor: I will buy you the broken pieces and promise that you don’t need to worry if something goes wrong.

The participant fixed the 3D printer by ordering the essential parts with the coach and learned to fix the device. The printer works perfectly now. From this instance, it can be understood that the participant felt safety and encouragement to take on the challenge. This lead the participant to increase both practical skills and confidence, which was the focus, rather than paying attention only on the success of the task.

3D-printer in use. Photo: Mitha Rachel Jose.

Instance 2: DUDE received a task implemented using C# programming language from a software company. DUDE had a participant, who was skilled in Python Programming. The DUDE participant, company personnel and the coach discussed the task and decided to implement the same work using Python Programming. The result was outstanding, and the company appreciated the participant’s competencies in Python Programming. Later, this DUDE participant got an internship in the same company. This example highlights the participants skills and ability to discuss a common plan on how to do the task. This is a valuable work life skill which lead to positive result.

Instance 3: DUDE project received a website development task, which was quite extensive. The DUDE instructor created a group of four participants for the work: a project head and three developers. The four people were from different countries, with different attitudes and cultures. Initially, it took a lot of work to coordinate the group. After some days they found a way of communicating with each other, and they made an incredible team together and built a website in one month. When they got exhausted in the team work, they discussed it with the DUDE instructor, solved the issues together, and went out for some extra activities such as having lunch together, spending time in the forest, bowling, etc. This was an example of improving not only their IT skills but especially their team working skills. After three months at DUDE, they got an internship at a company and were later hired by the company.

DUDE workshops support participants on the job application process

DUDE organizes workshops to develop participants’ work application documents and process. The workshop topics are such as: How to prepare a portfolio and CV? How to improve various digital skills? How to search for job positions? How to map your skills and competencies? These workshops help the DUDE participants to prepare and strengthen their portfolio, CV and work-life skills through proper guidance and support.

One objective of the project is that the participants gain confidence in using their inherent digital skills to integrate with digital technologies to utilize in the workforce. These workshops support the participants in improving their creative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These gained skills are self-examined by the participants in the tasks assigned by DUDE to understand their digital potential. This experience promotes a feeling to the participant that they are on the right track of training. Additionally, this increases trust in getting and applying for a job.  DUDE helps the participants to increase their value in the job market by creating innovative profiles on social media platforms like LinkedIn and making them open to work with the experiences they gained through DUDE assignments.

The experiences, training and practices at DUDE help to shape DUDE participant’s skills to the labor market and workforce, containing tasks requiring digital skills but also social skills of collaborating, communicating, being creative, being flexible and being innovative. These qualities are reflected in participant’s portfolio of experience and knowledge. DUDE participants are paving themselves a successful career path with excellent work life and digital skills.

DUDE-project is funded by the European Social Fund in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland. The project is done during 1.1.2021-31.8.2023 by Centria UAS and Kpedu. 

Mitha Rachel Jose
Centria University of Applied Sciences
Tel. +358 40 181 1683