Sky - Sky Academy Starting Out

What the judges said
The Unipart Inspiring Young Talent Award, Winner (Large Company) 2016
  • The link between the Starting Out programme and Sky's wider business operations was impressive.
  • Sky had succeeded in inspiring and attracting young people to go into the media space, including in customer service and technology.
  • Sky had clearly picked up on diversity and gender issues and created a strong support system including buddying and mentoring.

Starting Out is a Sky Academy initiative that uses TV, creativity and sport to help young people build practical skills and experience. The programme provides over 1,000 work related opportunities for young people each year.  

Sky logo


Starting Out was launched as part of Sky Academy in 2013 to ensure there was a business-wide focus on young talent. The programme includes work experience, placements, apprenticeships and graduate recruitment. 

Before its launch, there were 15 separate graduate programmes of varying value, some noncentralised work experience programmes and a small number of apprenticeships. Starting Out brought all of the programmes together and worked out where there were opportunities for growth.

Starting Out now includes 900 work experience and paid placement places, 180 apprenticeships and 90 graduate opportunities each year. Wrapped around all these is a programme of events, support and guidance for young people starting out in their careers.  

The five Sky Academy initiatives are building six skills identified as key to a successful future – communication, creativity, collaboration, teamwork, resilience and planning.   

So far, 2,800 young people have been involved in Starting Out and this figure will continue to rise in coming years.

Sky is Europe’s leading entertainment company, serving 21 million customers across five countries but it realises that to continue being successful it needs the best, diverse talent at the heart of its workforce. By improving the skills of the UK’s future talent, Sky is filling the skills gaps and building a more successful society.      


Sky’s Board of Directors is responsible for the stewardship of the company and for overseeing the management of its business affairs. This includes Sky Academy. At an operational level the initiatives are managed by the Starting Out Manager who has oversight of all initiatives and liaises between the business and Sky Academy to ensure the programmes are delivering value for both young people and the business.

Paid initiatives and permanent contracts

From board level down, Sky is committed to delivering a million Sky Academy opportunities. This requires a commitment to significant growth across Starting Out programmes. At the same time, Sky has only grown its work experience opportunities where there is demand for a pipeline of talent or where it has significant demand from young people.   

This is because the company commits to issuing permanent contracts for all apprentice and graduate roles from day one, so only grows initiatives where there is business need. It uses workforce planning to identify where the future skills gaps are and ensures Sky Academy opportunities are filling these.  All work experience students are offered £15 a day, which is unique in the industry.   

Team involvement

A team of eight permanent Sky staff members work full time on delivering all Starting Out initiatives. This has increased by two full time staff since November 2013 to manage the increased number of opportunities. Sky invests over £500,000 in recruitment, attraction and training for all programmes. In addition over 150 people drive forward the programmes by volunteering on top of their day job to be programme champions in their business areas or mentor the new starters.   

Sky invests financial and staff resource in its partnership with MAMA Youth, an external charity which provides training for young people from under represented backgrounds secure employment, with a focus on those wanting to pursue a career in TV.

What the Chair of the Judges said:

“Creative, imaginative, passionate and meeting the requirements of their own business and casting the net wide in the community to provide a quality of opportunities." - John Neill, CEO, Unipart

What Sky's Group Chief Executive said:

“In the UK and Ireland, we’ve chosen to focus on supporting young people. We think it’s time for business to step up and work alongside schools and colleges to help prepare young people for a successful future. Given the power of our brand, it’s an area in which we believe we can make a real difference.  

Sky Academy is a commitment that we’re very proud of. We know it’s not only making a difference to young people, but also to the future of our business and, we believe, to the media and technology sector as a whole.” - Jeremy Darroch, Group Chief Executive, Sky

Good for society and for business
  • Sky’s structured programmes enable young people to develop the skills needed to be successful at gaining work or progressing once within the workplace.
  • Sky’s five initiatives are designed to give young people clear and high quality progression routes into the business, and between Sky’s opportunities.
  • Building a permanent workforce of highly skilled software developers has resulted in cash savings of millions for the business.
  • Establishing these programmes has brought a diverse range of talent into the business which has been retained.
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