Schooling Our Way Out of the Digital Skills Crisis

Paul Brown
25.06.2019 Published: 25.06.19, Modified: 25.06.2019 18:06:03

COO at FDM Group and Chair of the advisory board for the Institute of Coding Sheila Flavell, recently penned an opinion piece around the digital skills crisis in education, which has just been published in the June print edition of Education Today. You can read a copy of the article below.

The ever-increasing digital skills gap is a widespread issue which is having a detrimental impact on our nation’s economy and leaving businesses poorly resourced. In fact, recent research has found that said skills gap could cost the UK £141 billion in GDP growth. This is a figure that we can only expect to rise considering the significant advancements being made in the technology and science industry, compared to the declining interest in pertinent subjects such as coding and ICT.

Thousands of companies and organisations are crying out for workers with specialist tech-skills, such as data scientists and engineers, and research has found that in the last five years demand for these candidates has more than tripled. Therefore, it is essential that we begin to develop, nurture and encourage an interest in science and technology in our schools. From a young age many students will begin to have an idea of the field-of-work they would most like to pursue, based on a combination of the subjects in school that they excel in the most, and the windows of opportunity that each industry might provide.

It is a travesty that take-up of computing courses in schools is actually in deep decline. This is not due to a lack of interest from students, but through our education system, which has failed to ignite a passion for the subjects which could provide fascinating career opportunities for our future generations.

Debates still rage around the removal of the ICT GCSE qualification as well as the number of hours spent teaching coding falling from 31% between 2012 and 2017 in English Secondary Schools. Education should be our first port of call when it comes to plugging the digital skills gap, this makes it a huge shame to see that interest in STEM subjects seems to be waning at a time when our economy needs a fresh generation engaged in these vital courses. Moving forward, it is essential that the importance of the skills that these subjects provide and the windows of opportunity they present are made abundantly clear to all students on a consistent basis, and at the same time, many subjects relating to ICT and coding should be reintroduced to the core schooling curriculum.

Another issue that is still prevalent in the education system, is the perception that STEM-subjects and fields of work are a ‘boys-only-club’. By encouraging girls to recognise the exciting opportunities that STEM subjects can offer, we will effectively be helping to eradicate not just the digital skills gap, but also the gender disparity issues that are still a concerning issue in STEM fields-of-work.

Also, it must be mentioned that plugging the skills gap is a task which is not solely reserved for the education sector. Businesses and organisations can do a lot to assist in the development of young people and students interested in STEM careers by working closely with colleges, universities and schools. By offering apprenticeships and assisting students of all ages into selected fields of work through close collaboration with the aforementioned education institutions; business and education can assist each other in driving our digital economy forward and opening up new opportunities for future generations of digitally capable workers and business leaders.

Read the online version published in Education Today here.

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