This is a guest blog from Colin Bannister, vice president and chief technology officer at CA Technologies UK&I, who urges young people to seize the exciting opportunities the IT industry can offer
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For graduates and school leavers looking to embark on their careers, the road ahead can seem very daunting. With damning reports of youth unemployment dominating headlines, the prospect of securing your first job, let alone pursuing your dream career – if you’re fortunate to even know what that is right now – can seem impossible at times.
At the heart of this issue is the well documented skills shortage; something which is particularly prevalent in the technology industry. With Computing A-Level student numbers continuing to plummet, and a recent report revealing that some 16 million people in the UK lack basic online skills, the situation seems bleak.
So, what does this situation mean for today’s students? I believe there is a real opportunity for young people to use the skill shortage to their advantage. Although the media paints a negative picture about the effect the skills gap is having on the technology industry, the unreported angle is the opportunities it presents individual students.
Businesses are desperately crying out for new technology and services, which in turn increases demand for skilled workers in everything from app development to website design. This offers a lucrative opportunity for young people who are willing to learn the necessary skills to set themselves apart in this fast-growing and ever-evolving sector, ultimately making themselves more employable.
A recent study by Hotel.com revealed that 1 in 4 adults wish they had chosen a career in technology but a lack of skills is holding them back. If this is the case, now is the time for school leavers and graduates to hone the expertise they need to succeed in this sector. The British technology sector is vital to the UK economy, contributing £140 billion annually (the equivalent to 12% GDP) and it is one of the most innovative and exciting spaces to work in.
I would urge students to seek out opportunities in the industry and where they can gain hands-on, practical experience – in new and ever-growing specialisms. Why not research opportunities to gain work experience with entrepreneurial tech start-ups, learning from those driving innovation in the technology industry? There are also great vocational qualifications which offer a ‘sandwich’ year, enabling you to gain a real insight into the working world. And even if you don’t choose a strictly technical course, there are still opportunities to gain work experience alongside your studies which can really give you an edge when it comes to meeting a potential employer.
I am pleased to see that there are an increasing number of technology initiatives and campaigns out there for ambitious young school leavers and graduates. Take the project, led by Martha Lane Fox and Go UK which aims to get some 16 million people across the UK basic online skills so they can use the internet to its full potential. It sounds minimal but the amount you think you know about particular technologies – and their impact on our future – is often just the tip of the iceberg!
The organisation eSkills is working relentlessly to make sure Britain is getting the technology skills it needs to succeed, as well as encouraging more women to pursue careers in IT. In fact, ITMB now has 33% female students – which is a huge step forward. It’s Information Technology Management for Business degree offers students practical and vocational training rather than just a purely academic qualification which can often leave graduates poorly prepared for the workplace. There are even opportunities to teach yourself relevant skills in your spare time. BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has launched a free mobile app development course on iTunes U last summer with a dedicated area offering free educational content from leading educational institutions.
These kinds of initiatives can go a long way in kick-starting the careers of young people and the more businesses and organisations that can get involved by offering apprenticeships, shadowing schemes or training opportunities, the better!
Rather than something to be fearful of, the skills shortage could actually be an opportunity for up and coming, ambitious students to carve themselves a career in the sector. By ‘thinking outside the box’ and learning skills applicable to up and coming disciplines, a whole new world of opportunities can be opened up. The IT industry is an ever evolving and exciting space to work in, and there is so much potential for the young and digital generation to excel. Now is the time to make it happen.