THE BLOG

Why Collaboration Is Key To Help The Next Generation Close The IT Skills Gap

04/11/2016 14:58

There is a huge IT skills gap. Currently, the lack of digital skills in the UK is estimated to cost the economy £63 billion a year in lost additional GDP.

It is clear that the next generation are speeding ahead in their digital abilities. Computing was introduced to the UK school curriculum in 2014, helping children learn about coding and computational thinking; this year, Computing GCSE entries increased by 76%.

But there is still so much more to be done to help kids build the digital skills they will surely need in the workplace.

Lack of confidence from teachers in Computing means that many are not even taking up the curriculum. This summer, 740,000 students took GCSE Maths exams, but only 35,500 took Computing. We have a duty to close the IT skills gap in the UK and ensure that every child has access to a top quality digital education.

Likewise, parents often don't have the digital skills to support their children in what can be an isolating learning experience. Learning programming is generally a lonely journey - which is one reason why many people taking online courses drop out. Students who don't have an innate love of coding need support and motivation to keep at it, which current coding courses can easily neglect.

At the moment, the learning experience is also not reflective of the way these skills will be used down the line. At top companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter coding is often completely collaborative. People collectively solve problems, help each other, and review each other's work. But when learning to code, the journey is usually pretty isolated.

If we want more and different types of people coming into the technology talent pool we need to make sure everyone has access to support and motivation while they are learning. On top of this, we are not preparing our children for the world of work if we aren't showing them how to learn collaboratively in these new digital subjects. The way we approach teaching and supporting learning in these key topics will impact whether we are building the necessary pipeline of strong computing talent to keep up with the pace of technological advancement and adoption in society.

It is therefore vital that we help support teachers in delivering the curriculum and also help parents learn alongside their children, working together with them to improve motivation and progress.

The answer is collaboration. We need to make sure that children are embedding key teamwork skills into their learning.

There are three effective ways to do this. The first is working together on a project, completing key hurdles as a cohesive team. This can be in person or via a platform that lets students collaborate on their tasks. The second is competitive learning, challenging each other to reach key milestones first. Finally, peer-to-peer mentoring is a fantastic way for students to learn together, with mentors solidifying their knowledge and confidence by helping mentees.

Helping children collaborate on their learning will take the pressure off teachers and hopefully encourage more to take up the curriculum. With children learning together, the teacher is free to take on a supervisory, supporting and troubleshooting role.

Parents can also get involved in these three collaborative activities, both learning alongside their children and, importantly, supporting their motivation and progress.

As we continue to demand more and more of technology across all aspects of our lives, the need for strong digital skills backed up by an ability to apply them in the workplace is only set to grow. Now is the time to support the next generation through collaborative learning.

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