There is a massive skills gap in the UK right now for the technology industry. To be able to compete in the global economy we need to be able to provide future generations with the tools they need to compete in a technically dominated marketplace. At present we have students in colleges who have not done any programming in their lives. These are the lost generation. They were at primary school when there was a lot of money being pumped into education and the result is a demographic of individuals who still do not know what they want to do when they leave education. We are 10 years behind!
In India, they are introducing kids to programming and opening up computers to learn about them from the age of seven. In order for the UK to become a key output hub, with a reputation for world-class scientific and technological know-how we need to be working from grassroots levels. If education is the key to prevent swathes of UK companies outsourcing abroad potential technical positions, why don't we have enough trained tech workers in the UK to fill these openings? The current problem, it would seem, is that even at the most basic levels, tech education is failing to be recognised as an important skill for our future generations of workers.
Although some employers blame universities for not turning out enough employment-ready graduates, the real issue is that we are not preparing the children from much earlier. According to provisional figures from Ofqual, 5,750 people are sitting computing A-level in England this year, up from 3,490 in 2013. Compared to the whopping 85,000 students sitting the most popular subject, A-Level Maths. This leaves the equivalent Computing qualifications at 6th form level significantly lacking in take up.
The UK is one of the very best in the world when it comes to the arts and creative industries, so why then does our Tech industry fall so short? Kids may not think coding is cool, but they do think YouTube is, and gaming and apps and pretty much everything else online. Teaching them not just to consume these products, but how to actively develop and manufacture them, could very well make us a force to be reckoned with in the global tech marketplace.
Is there a perception problem with computing amongst the younger generations? There might be, but more likely there is a problem with the way we deliver education in computing to the schools and institutions throughout the UK. With a digital skills gap affecting as many as 12 million people throughout the UK, it becomes apparent that digital skills ability is dependant upon postcode?
Digital skills for all
Go.On UK, a charity set up to promote digital skills, conducted a survey of over 4,000 people nationwide to assess their skills. By creating a Digital Exclusion Heatmap, they have been able to pinpoint areas where digital skills fall short. Unsurprisingly, these skills were most apparent in their absence where poverty and a lack of infrastructure are a part of the story.
Unfortunately previous Governments have tinkered too much with education and this constant changing of the goalposts for schools is what has led to this lost generation. With nearly a quarter of the population being failed by tech education, this already has a terrible consequence for our college age students and will undoubtedly have serious consequences within many areas of the UK economy.
This is why we developed the IDEAS Bus and have devised a unique and effective way to engage with schools and students across the UK. Devised as a means to educate the educators and enable them to stay in touch with the latest technological advances including Virtual Reality, 3D Printers and Cloud Solutions, Internet of Things, Bid Data, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics etc, which will be of benefit to their pupils. The free-to-use service is now providing information, best practice, case studies, white papers, product demonstrations, lessons and more of the very latest tech releases, saving teachers time and effort and helping them make informed decisions. The bus also provide the schools with fantastic opportunities to save money.
The core idea behind The IDEAS Bus is to unite educators and the tech industry for the benefit of students. Schools need to stay ahead of the game if they're going to give their pupils a chance to compete on the international jobs market, while the UK tech industry can only succeed long-term if we can produce the talent necessary to drive it forward.
If EdTech providers can club together and help educate people on the importance of tech and digital skills, our future generations will be ready to tackle the demands of the digital revolution head on. Get on board the IDEAS bus and let's make Britain great again.