Medley Academy is a ‘youth accelerator’ rethinking the way young people prepare for work

19 Aug, 2016

It isn’t just technology itself that’s changing the word, but also the different thinking that comes with it. Being efficient, globally-minded and open to fresh ideas can change your entire approach to work. That leads to startups like Medley Academy, which describes itself as a ‘youth accelerator.’

Founded by two of the original team from social media mavens Social Chain, Medley Academy aims to change the way young people learn the skills for work. It’s based on the idea that education today doesn’t properly prepare young people for employment. Sure, universities give you knowledge, but preparation for the actual things you’ll be doing in a job? Not always so much.

My own degree course was based on practical experience but it couldn’t keep up with the pace of industry change. A short course aimed at making me ‘work ready’ would have helped me a lot in the early days of my career. Unsurprisingly then, I can see the appeal of Medley’s approach.

As they have a background in social media marketing, that’s where Medley’s team are starting out. They plan to offer two-month-long programmes in Manchester, aimed at nurturing a group of skilled, work-ready young people. The number of participants will be kept small to allow for lots of one-to-one attention.

A new approach

Medley Academy’s relationship with local employers, and its business model, is where the innovation is happens. Employers will be invited to teach academy students, but Medley won’t charge commission on any hires those employers make. Instead, the startup is going for a more of a partnership approach. Employers will be able to sponsor a programme, giving them access to talent but also allowing them to tick corporate social responsibility boxes by helping out in the local community.

Medley Academy Bootcamp
Medley Academy’s first bootcamp event which took place this week. Images via Medley Academy

Talking to Medley co-founder Alex Mellor, I saw a tech startup-style approach to experimentation and iteration in the way they were developing the business model and product. They’ve quickly refined and honed the idea to tackle recruitment in a way that benefits employers and graduates alike. They’ll no doubt continue to do so.

The partnership approach allows them to be flexible about how they grow and adapt their programmes, without having to worrying about hitting a certain number of hires. Freedom to quickly change course is important when developing software, and that approach can be applied to other businesses too.

Indeed, Mellor is keen to point out that he doesn’t think of Medley as a recruitment company at all. “For us, rather than challenging recruitment, it’s about supporting young people, not just graduates, to get into the industry. Placing people into jobs will never be a metric.”

Boot up

This week Medley Academy held its first ‘bootcamp’ event. Young people got a taster of what the Academy will offer, including real-world advice from employers. These bootcamps will be used to drum up interest in the full programmes. While the content and timing of the social media programme is still being nailed down, Medley aims to expand to offer training in all sorts of digital skills

Beyond the programmes, Mellor says they want to eventually open physical hubs. These spaces would deliver programmes and bootcamps and also act as incubator space for for people who want to start businesses.

Medley is still at an early stage and it remains to be seen how much impact they’ll make. Still, I’m impressed by the team’s drive to do something different with education and preparing young people for the jobs they’ll actually do. It also points to how more businesses are likely to develop and iterate in the future. After all, that (admittedly overused) word ‘disruption’ doesn’t have to be limited to pure tech businesses.

Read next: This hackspace fuels a small town’s creativity and digital ambitions

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