The IFB News Pipe

Here’s looking at youth, kid!

18 April 2017

IFB blog - Here's looking at youth, kid!In this blog series, we’re looking at the gaps in the digital technology sector and the actions being taken to tackle them. Our first post focused on the digital gender gap and now we’re delving into the skills crisis faced by the industry.

It’s evident that the UK is in the midst of a digital skills crisis costing around £63bn a year in lost income and that action needs to be taken to encourage more people to develop digital skills and pursue careers in the sector. In order to prepare for our digital future and build a robust digital economy, we need to target the youth of today and ensure they’re equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge.

It starts with STEM

We need to target youngsters early and inspire them to want to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at school, by raising awareness of the career opportunities available through studying these subjects.

A number of industry-leading organisations such as ScotlandIS and Energy Skills Partnership are already working towards this through dedicated initiatives. One of which is the Big Bang Fair, an event bringing the classroom to life to demonstrate to youngsters the exciting and rewarding opportunities available with the right experience and qualifications.

Most recently, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education and Science, announced the launch of Scotland’s first digital tech charity – Digital Xtra Fund – at the recent ‘Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together’ event in Glasgow. The charity aims to provide under 16s with skills in digital technology and encourage more youngsters into STEM subjects.

Another initiative, E-placement Scotland helps to secure paid placements for Scottish students studying computing-related subjects so they can get hands-on experience whilst they study. The team works closely with Skills Development Scotland to build interest in working in digital and IT sectors.

Relevant Tools and Support

It’s all very well to build up the enthusiasm of STEM subjects and the career opportunities that they bring amongst youngsters, but we also need to ensure that they are properly equipped with the relevant tools and support required to learn and develop these skills.

An audit of IT equipment in schools found that 22% of it is ineffective. Research also shows that only 35% of computer teachers in schools have a relevant degree and 30% of the required number of computer science teachers have not been recruited.

Of course, keeping up with ever-advancing technologies will always be a challenge for schools but with the continued support and collaboration from industry and government, schools will be able to ensure that curriculums are as industry-relevant as possible.

Inspiring Peers

When it comes to making subject choices at school, choosing further study paths and making career choices, youngsters tend to look to their parents and peers for advice and inspiration. It’s important to talk to our children about what opportunities exist in the digital tech sector – whether it’s an aunt who works in information security, an older sister who’s a digital marketer or web developer, or perhaps dad’s friend who develops the games they play. Having these conversations about real people that they know and can relate to, often helps put ideas and aspirations into context by chatting about the day-to-day jobs that they do.

Inspiration also comes from high-profile individuals or organisations so it’s important to engage in conversations about these too. Like the 7-year-old girl who likes computers and playing a robot game on her tablet, who was so taken by the fun working environment at Google that her dad encouraged her to send a job application to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.

Workplace Ready 

With 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs suffering tech skills gap, the shortage in relevant digital skills presents a risk to business growth, innovation and wider societal development.

A combination of collaborative efforts and joined up activities between education, industry and government will help in getting students skilled up and workplace ready for a career in the digital technology field. With the likes of the initiatives mentioned above and organisations such as Code Clan and The Data Lab around, it seems more industry-related resources are becoming available to help in preparing future generations for careers in the sector.

“The digital technologies industry offers a wealth of highly paid, exciting opportunities in a wide range of roles. We definitely need many more young people to come and work in businesses across the industry, so exciting them around digital and making sure their experiences and teaching at school level are right up to date is really important.  We very much value the work that is underway, supported by Scottish Government and industry, to make sure that schools are properly equipped to meet these challenges.” – Polly Purvis, Chief Executive, ScotlandIS

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