A new initiative which aims to revolutionise the education system in Northern Ireland by intelligently connecting pupils and educators with industry employers has kicked off today with the support of global and local companies including PwC, Grant Thornton, BT, Novosco and Smiley Monroe.

mTech.Academy aims to create an experiential learning community which will bring together ten schools with industry-leading organisations for a year-long programme of mentoring, professional development and exposure to the mobile technologies that will define the future of work.

It has been formed as a collaboration between GSMA’s chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara and leading enterprise educationalist Diane Morrow, who spent 10 years teaching A Level business studies and careers in schools across Northern Ireland.

This year’s programme will culminate with 100 Year 10 students experiencing a life-changing and exclusive opportunity to travel to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2019 where they will present their ideas on smart cities to senior business leaders. Mobile World Congress is an annual global showcase organised by the GSMA and attended by over 108,000 delegates including 7,700 CEOs, 190 government delegations and 3,500 members of the media.

Seventy teachers in leadership level roles will have the opportunity to engage in training sessions with industry leaders during the academic year, exploring how to inspire and empower their teams in the era of intelligent connectivity.

Diane Morrow, co-founder of mTech.Academy, said: “Today is a very exciting day for us as we kick off our programme for the 2018/19 academic year and reveal the fantastic companies who have come on board as supporters. We want to act as a bridge between industry and education to introduce more experiential learning techniques to pupils, while also delivering access and mentoring opportunities for careers’ teachers.”

Michael O’Hara, co-founder of mTech.Academy and chief marketing officer of GSMA, said: “With mTech.Academy we are building a true learning experience which will allow pupils from Northern Ireland to bring their passion for mobile technology to the global stage. Last year we ran a trial programme, bringing 11 pupils from St Ronan’s College Lurgan to Mobile World Congress, and it was amazing to see how well they responded to the opportunity, with many changing their subject choices as a result. Diane and I immediately set about building the mTech.Academy programme, with the goal of bringing this experience to more students from across Northern Ireland.”

“There are about 200 schools in Northern Ireland, and we hope reach all of these over the next five years, closing the gap between industry and education, and preparing our young people for the exciting and dynamic workplace of the future.”

Tommy O’Reilly, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education, said: “The Department of Education welcomes this exciting and innovative initiative. The connection between industry and education is key, and the opportunity to have our young people from Northern Ireland experience the life changing learnings at Mobile World Congress makes this program unique. The Department looks forward to working with the mTech.Academy team as the education system in Northern Ireland continues to respond positively to the challenges of a new digital world.”

Lynne Rainey, PwC NI Student Recruitment Partner, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for students and builds upon the work with young people that we’ve been doing for several years. The world of work is changing rapidly and 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. It’s imperative that, where appropriate, industry reaches out to support students achieve their full potential.”

Patrick Gallen, Partner, Grant Thornton, People and Change Consulting, said: “Grant Thornton is delighted to be working with mTech.Academy on this exciting endeavor.  Our People and Change Consulting practice will deliver the twilight training sessions, where teachers will get to experience leading edge thinking and techniques on areas such as communication, collaboration and inspiring innovation and creativity. The teachers will take these new skills back into the schools and creative a positive leadership environment that will drive measurable change at all levels within the education system.”

Additional supporters of the mTech.Academy programme include Around Noon, Bespoke Communications, Glandore, and W5.

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