Can you help? Technopop festival on hunt for loaned laptops, screens, Wi-Fi and more for 100,000 students

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I spoke with Technopop recently about its London festival due to take place over a course of four weeks, in East London.

Supported by Oxley International Holdings, the festival aims to provide an environment to inspire young people to consider IT in both their future careers and social lives.

Due to take place at The International Quarter (TIQ) on the edge of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, from 8 October to 2 November, entry is free for all children and students aged six to 19.

Thousands of students from all over the UK have already registered for the event, with an anticipated 100,000 to attend overall.

Understandably Technopop is on the hunt for companies willing to loan their equipment for use at the event.

They are particularly in need of laptops to be used in hackathons, Wi-Fi connectivity for the day and screens for presentations, etc.

If you work for a company that might be interested in helping out with equipment, please drop me an email at kbateman@techtarget.com.

Proving IT's value in a cloudy world: Widening knowledge and demonstrating value

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This is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design.

We've arrived at a point where most businesses - even the most sensitive - have accepted the role of cloud technology, and have even embraced it. The advantages are trotted out regularly - pay-as-you-go, flexible, secure, scalable and crucially - it's cheaper. Thumbnail image for gareth cartman image.jpg

Why is it cheaper? Because you don't need an IT department to upgrade & maintain the system for you - the cloud solution providers do it for you.

The emphasis has moved away from the technology simply because there's no need to manage the technology. And that is leaving IT departments in something of a quandary.

 Adapt or die, basically...

And for many, that means "die" 

Thoran Rodrigues calls it "death by obsolescence", and it's coming through a variety of channels:

Increased user knowledge: we know a lot more about how to manage our devices these days. Indeed, most of us can probably navigate our way around Windows, and the advent of BYOD adds in a whole other element. 

No need for infrastructure: cloud eliminates the need for servers, and therefore the need for people to maintain those servers and networks.

Better technology: compatibility is no longer an issue for many organisations - cross-browser compatibility is more or less standard, and while larger businesses are still on Internet Explorer (with its thousands of patches and workarounds), most of us have moved on to something more reliable. 

It's going to take a radical rethink of the way IT departments work, and that should start by thinking about the way IT professionals provide value to businesses. These last few years of economic downturn have put a sharp focus on ROI. Every asset is sweated, every penny needs to provide a return.

What of IT, in that case? 

Widening our knowledge

Knowledge of IT is one thing - knowledge of how IT is crucial to business performance is quite another. 

To start this, it's time to broaden out our knowledge of business processes and start to get involved at a deeper level. What is, for instance, the difference between CRM and ERP? Even if they're both provided in the cloud, there are decisions to be made at every level of the business and the choice of one over the other will have significant IT impacts. Equally, the selection of one provider over another will come with other impacts, and there is a sizeable consultancy angle here. 

Finding our opportunities

Indeed, this argument between CRM and ERP is an interesting one. While this debate may be playing out in other departments, the very fact that this technology is changing at such a rapid rate gives IT an opportunity to deliver significant value to the business. 

Knowing more about these technologies, and which ones integrate with existing systems, is going to be essential. Not everyone within an organisation is going to understand this to any significant degree, and there's a need for this level of expertise.

Furthermore, ensuring that providers respect Service Level Agreements, and that they are indeed providing the software upgrades to the level the business requires is going to be another key business requirement. Who is going to look after that? It has to be internal. It has to be IT.

Demonstrating our value

I'd go a step further from these basic business requirements and ask IT departments to look at areas where it can provide real value. For instance, how long does it take the average user to boot up a laptop in the morning? I worked in one organisation where we unofficially measured this and discovered that people spent an average of 12 minutes booting their laptops up.

In which time, they made a coffee, went for a chat with someone, and came back usually 15 minutes later.

That's 15 minutes per person, per day - wasted due to defunct IT equipment. Add on top of that the average of 15 minutes wasted due to crashes every day (on average, one per person) - then that's 30 minutes every day per person. Add that up across 200 people, and you've got... well, you can measure that. And you can measure it in pounds and pence.

What's the productivity impact of getting that time back?

That's one simple example of how IT departments can visibly measure their impact in terms that the board can understand.

In a clouded world, IT's role is changing demonstrably - by upping our game and getting in on the pounds and pence impact of quality IT provision, we can shape that new role and make ourselves indispensable again. The alternative is that we end up like most of the technology we've been responsible for - obsolete.

Employment in UK technology sector set to soar

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This is a guest blog by Sophie Christopher, head of events, PR and external marketing communications at Office Depot and Viking.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sophie Christopher.jpgIt's safe to say that the past five years have been an extremely trying time for the UK economy. Since entering recession; Britain has seen industry sectors that were once described as sturdy and solid, such as construction, fight to survive. Although affected, the technology sector in the UK seems to have weathered the storm and has fought to maintain a level of strength, managing to still remain innovative and creative.

With positive reports on the improving economy, the first signs of recovery are being met with true optimism and those individuals who are fully immersed in the industry are pondering what's next in the technology market. According to UKTI, the technology sector is one of the largest wealth creators in the UK and has become one of the fastest growing sectors over the last decade. Recent research by Office Depot garnered unique insight into UK businesses spanning 15 industry sectors - including technology, and what was found was extremely compelling.

It's always difficult to draw realistic conclusions from what is reported in media headlines in relation to the state of the economy; however 41% of businesses owners and managing directors in technology believe that the positive reports about the economic upturn are completely accurate and representative of their sector. Our recent research was an opportunity to gain an honest overview of the sector at a grassroots level. Results revealed that 72% in the technology sector believed that business had improved over the last three months and 89% were expecting growth over the next 12 months.

This not only solidifies the general positive consensus of the sector, it also illustrates the mindset of those working in the technology field, with a focus at present to further expand not only their offering but also the value it brings to the UK economy.

As one of the most thriving sectors within the UK, recruitment is set to play a pivotal role in the industries further expansion.  Nearly three quarters of tech managing directors said that they would be recruiting this year, which would indicate a conscious and motivating step to grow the existing talent pool in order to elevate the UK's technology position further on a global platform.

What remains even more remarkable is the fact that managing directors are not anticipating the challenge of navigating a high turnover of staff, which often presents itself when positive reports about the economy become more common place. It would seem that businesses sense that employees feel content in the roles they currently hold, which is further reflected in the fact that when asked whether they feel pressure to give pay rises 55% said no. Although they don't feel under pressure, 50% did say that they would be rewarding staff with pay rises throughout 2014.

In comparison to other industry sectors involved in this research, those in technology remain confident in the future of the sector. As companies continue to push the boundaries of innovation there's a positive feeling that begins to grow in relation to the development of its fresh and original concepts - which means the sector is well on the way to meeting the vision of making the UK one of the leading technology capitals of the world.

Negotiation is the name of the game: How to get the best rates as an IT contractor

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Claire Johnson, managing director of contractor accountancy firm, SJD Accountancy, gives her top tips on negotiating the best rates for you and your business.

Working for yourself isn't just about being good at what you do, it is also persuading people that you are good at what you do.Thumbnail image for SJD claire johnson.jpg

Negotiating higher rates is often the more challenging part of contracting and the thing which some IT contractors can find difficult.

However, being good at negotiation can mean getting better rates, far higher than you would enjoy as a permanent member of an IT team. SJD's latest contractor attitude survey found that daily rates have increased by 20% in the last two years to between £ 500-£ 749.

Is this all due to how you sell yourself towards the end client? Or is the economy realising the value of contractors?

               1. Know what you're worth

Rates can vary depending on your skill set.  It's natural as humans for us all to want more money. However, no one is irreplaceable. Ensure you know the value of your skill sets and negotiate your price based on what you can bring to the company. Also have a set rate in the back of your mind, know where to draw the line and how far you can negotiate your rate. One of the golden rules is to aim high and expect to compromise.

 Negotiation is key whether going for larger, or smaller roles. If you know your own worth and know that you are in a strong position for a job - eg.  you have the experience and the ability  - and are willing to stand your ground, this can have a positive impact on your negotiating position and reputation.  If the client believes you are happy to walk away if you don't get the rate you want, then they might be willing to increase the budget.

2.              Value each job on its own merit

A trap which many fall into when working for themselves is to agree a rate and then stick to it. Often many come to a day rate that they believe their skills or experience are worth, regardless of the job remit.  Individually quote for each project based on the time and effort involved. This is particularly relevant if it is another contract within the same company. Many will expect a similar rate, regardless of the work involved. If it involves different skills or is more labour extensive, explain why and quote more.

3.              Can you afford to say no to smaller roles?

When people first start out on their own, they often go for as much work as they possibly can, assuming quantity is better than quality.  However, this isn't always the case. In the beginning, people often say yes to every role within their niche to help with their short turn revenue.  However, consider the economy, would it be more beneficial working for clients with a larger, more flexible budget, that might help with long-term revenue.

4.              Keep on top of trends

Knowing about the latest technologies, trends, systems and processes are essential when you work for yourself. Keeping in the loop with these can help you negotiate greater rates but also offer something that those who work within an organisation may not have. The training and new knowledge you have ascertained from one contract to the next is a great asset and make sure when you are pitching for work companies know about any new technologies, latest trends or processes you have worked on.

 Likewise, look for jobs that might broaden your experience. Nothing beats on-the-job experience as a training ground.

And the good news is that you can write off some training costs when you pay for them yourself. The rule is that they must "wholly and exclusively" relate to the contracts that you're generating income from at the time, meaning that a three-year part-time MSc in Computer Science probably wouldn't qualify if you are working on an IT contract. However, there is a little leeway from HMRC for cross-training.

5.              Look at the market closely

Likewise, ensure you keep a close eye on the market, even when you are securely in a contract.  Knowing what the market value is of a job, whether there is a shortage of skills and experience in what you do will help you negotiate higher rates for specific jobs.

Often this is forgotten when you have been working for the same company or one in a similar industry for a while. However, market rates change over time and within regions so make sure you know the current day value of your role within the area you are looking to work.

Finally, be fair. To yourself and to your clients. Remember to justify your higher rate based on your skills, experience and knowledge, yet remember that if you charge too much, you can be undercut and your reputation questioned. And ultimately, your reputation is still one of the most important revenue-generating assets you have.

Apps For Good Awards finalists announced

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I'm always so impressed by the Apps For Good Awards entries, so I was pleased to see that the 18 finalist teams have been announced by the judges.

All of the teams have been invited to a final Dragon's Den style round of judging at the Barbican Centre, where the panel will select the winners on 23 June.

The winning teams then work with development agencies to launch their app on the market, with the support of Apps For Good and its sponsors.

Finalists are also up for the People's Choice Award (PCA), which is decided through an online vote.

Winners of the PCA also have their app developed and launched to market. Voting for the PCA takes place on the Apps For Good website 11-23 June.


The Finalist teams are:

Connected Communities - Sponsored by TalkTalk

Fife College: GuideBook

Priestley College: Sweg Messenger

Shireland Collegiate Academy: Crime Time

Information - Sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Stratford Girls' Grammar School: I'm Okay

Westfields Junior School: Epic Sleepover

Sutton Grammar School for Boys: Occasion Location

Learning - Sponsored by Samsung

Hymers College:Crypto Connex

Sutton Grammar School for Boys: MyStudio

The St Marylebone CE School: My Spelling Bee

My Planet - Sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Budehaven Community School: ShoreCast

Highgate Wood School: Water Works

Westfields Junior School: Wildlife Spotter

Productivity

Wick High School: Chore Attack

Dr Challoner's Grammar School: Accumulus

Runshaw College: You Snooze, You Lose Maze

Saving, Spending, Giving - Sponsored by Barclaycard

The Abbey School: Swapsies

The Wroxham School: Pocket Money Pig

Thornleigh Salesian College: Delicious
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A coding conundrum - how will we bridge the skills gap?

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This is a guest blog by Peter Robbins, managing director at Mercato Solutions.

With so much attention on 'The Year of Code' there has been a huge spotlight placed on those responsible for delivering Computer Science in education, aiming to develop the skills necessary for individuals to embark on a career in code.  On the face of it, this seems like a no-brainer but are we going about it the right way? The existing skills shortage will continue to deepen unless big changes are made. Peter Robbins 2.jpg

Coding is an extremely-skilled and malleable occupation but it's key that we realise a long-term plan that galvanises multiple parties from education and the industry to make it happen and in a compressed time frame. 

There has been plenty of opinion voiced about the Government's 'Year of Code', with many arguing that this hasn't been approached in the right way and therefore it could be a long time before we see any real progress. Indeed, getting such young children to code 'just like that' is setting expectations at the wrong level and devaluing the profession of software development in the process.

The UK Council of Professors and Heads of Computing recently predicted a 15 per cent rise in the number of IT jobs by 2022, and yet there are fewer and fewer graduates seeking roles in the sector - a decrease of 50 percent in the last decade in fact. This rings alarm bells - the UK is in real danger of falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to providing talent that can lead the way in innovation, which could seriously damage the economy in the long-term.

It is clearly important that children are inspired and taught the required skills, but coding needs to be approached in the right way, and by the right people.

The teaching curriculum, for example, historically taught children how to use software rather than how to build it. The new IT syllabus announced by the Minister of Education earlier this year, however, is starting to go in the right direction and could inspire the generation of coders we need. 

'Computer Science' will now be taught from Year 1 onwards, and could have children programming in more than two languages by the time they reach high school. Great, but to continue these first steps, we need to reinstate some fundamentals like binary, Boolean Logic and problem solving in relevant school years.    As it stands we're going to have a gap as we wait for September's Year 1 intake to flourish and then we have to question how their early skills are going to be nurtured going forwards.

Separately, at its heart software development is an engineering task and therefore Computer Science needs to be taught by teachers with relevant skills.  A survey by MyKindaCrowd found 74 per cent of ICT teachers don't feel they have the skills to teach computer science and almost the same number question whether the government will provide support to begin teaching the new subject.

To inspire young people to embrace coding, it's crucial that teachers are provided with the necessary support to develop their own skills and to deliver engaging lessons, whether through government, the industry itself, or through a collaborative effort.  

It is also essential that what is being taught in schools is applicable outside the classroom in the real world. This ensures that young people become 'work ready' with the necessary tools to enter the profession. At the same time, it's important that we explore the subject in enough depth to provide youngsters with the opportunity to develop transferable and relevant skills that will open doors to a wide range of career paths. But it is down to the industry to share knowledge with educators and support this process for maximum return.

Coding is a vocation that requires a great deal of skill and expertise and one that is constantly evolving. By creating a long-term shared plan, we can continue to hold our own on the world stage when it comes to software development, innovation and growth.

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Codecademy opens first international office in London

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Codecademy is opening its first London office, as the firm's free coding skills service sees demand internationally.

The New York based company has also partnered with governments and education groups in the UK, Brazil, France, Estonia and Argentina.

In the UK Codecademy currently works with 1,000 schools and two million people including teachers, students, businesses and entrepreneurs. Despite being based in the US Codecademy realised more than 70% of its 24 miliion users were spread across 190 other countries.

With a recent platform redesign Codecademy is now available in local languages to encourage more users to learn to code for free.

CEO and co-founder of Codecademy Zach Sims, said: "We want Codecademy to be a gateway to better opportunities and a better life. In order to achieve this on a global scale, we have educated ourselves on the specific needs of learners in different places and understand that learning isn't the same across the world.

"By working with partners in each country, we're ensuring that we don't just have learners in each country, but a robust community of learners, teachers and support to provide specific skills needed to succeed in anyone's workplace."

The Institution of Engineering and Technology opens awards for nominations

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is on the hunt for individuals who are making advancements in science, engineering and technology for its annual IET Achievement Awards.

The organisation is calling for people to nominate colleagues who work in research and development or for their leadership of an enterprise.

Nominations need to demonstrate "exceptional engineering contribution in developing a product, service or process."

Entries can be from those starting their careers through to established professionals. Winners receive a medal presented at a ceremony in November and some winners also receive prizes up to £500.

Barry Brooks, IET President said: "As one of the world's largest professional bodies for engineers and technicians, we are looking forward to being inspired by engineers who are delivering the best in engineering excellence, recognising both developing talent and those at the pinnacle of their career.     

"To counter the risk of their great work going unnoticed, these awards put the spotlight on exceptional individuals who are contributing to the advancement of engineering."

Last year's winner of the IET's most prestigious prize, the Faraday Medal, was Michael Pepper, the Pender Professor of Nanoelectronics at University College London. On his win last year he said: "I was greatly honoured by this award with its distinguished history. I feel that it shines a light on talent in the field of nanotechnology and I hope it goes on to encourage young people to begin their careers in engineering."

There are four IET Medals and six IET Achievement Medals to be awarded in the following categories:

Faraday Medal

The most prestigious of the IET Achievement medals, awarded for notable scientific or industrial achievement globally, within engineering or for conspicuous service to the advancement of science, engineering and technology or for life-time achievement in science, engineering or technology.

Mountbatten Medal

Celebrating individuals who have made a significant contribution, to the promotion of either electronics or information technology and in the dissemination of the understanding of electronics and information technology to young people, or adults.

Mensforth Manufacturing Gold Medal

The Mensforth Manufacturing Gold Medal is awarded to candidates who have made major and distinguished contributions in the manufacturing sector, whether the advancement of manufacturing engineering technology or manufacturing management.

J J Thomson Medal for Electronics

The J J Thomson Medal is awarded to candidates who have made major and distinguished contributions in electronics.

IET Achievement Medals

Up to six IET Achievement Medals are awarded to individuals who have made major and distinguished contributions in the various sectors of engineering, technology or applied science. The judging panel will look for outstanding and sustained excellence in one or more activities, for example, research and development, innovation, design, manufacturing, technical management, promotion of engineering and technology.

 

IET Achievement Awards for Young Professionals

Sir Henry Royce Award

Awarded to an outstanding young engineering/IT professional who has excelled in the workplace within the last three years of their work in industry or for the profession.  

Mike Sargeant Award

Awarded to a young engineering or IT professional who is judged to have made the most significant progress in their career over more than three years.

Paul Fletcher Award

Awarded to an IET young professional volunteer for outstanding achievement in contributing to the activities of the IET.

The IET Achievement Awards are open for nominations until 30 May. More information about how to enter can be found here: www.theiet.org/achievement.

Nesta quiz reveals attitudes on innovation and technological change

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Nesta has published research into Britain's attitudes on innovation and technological change, categorising respondents of its quiz into five personas.

 

The Innovation Population quiz revealed the differences in attitudes between men and women and affluent and less affluent people.

 

One in five were categorised as "Futurists", who liked change, new gadgets and products for their own sake. This small group was identified as being more likely to be affluent.

 

A larger group was the "Realists" who said they see the value in new ways of doing things, however they are concerned with the change of pace. Concerns included the increased speed of consumerism and technology making people antisocial. The group strongly supported innovation where it promotes better health, wellbeing or quality of life.  

 

The quiz revealed that one in six people, mostly young women on lower incomes, felt innovation offered them little benefits but only new threats.

 

The research categorised the respondents into the following areas:

 

Innovation Futurists:  This group are engaged in the innovation debate and see the benefits of change in all aspects of life. They take a long-view on their own lives and the wider world and tend to view controversial innovations such as nuclear or GM foods more favourably than others. This group makes up 19% of the UK population, are typically male, and affluent.

 

Innovation Romantics: This group view new gadgets and technology as exciting and interesting but tend not to engage with innovation in the long term. They place great value and tend to approve of most innovation they come into contact with or hear about. However they aren't long-term planners and aren't concerned about the future. 12% of population, typically older and typically less affluent.

 

Innovation Creatives: Are typically younger than average, and display high levels of creativity and have a social perspective on life. They are curious and interested in new ideas especially those that demonstrate creativity and solve practical problems, but don't see innovation as a single concept. This group are the least cautious and often recommend new products to their peers. Make up 19% of the population and has broadly equal ratio male to female.

 

Innovation Realists: Appreciate innovation but aren't excited about it per se placing greater importance on ethics and rights than new ideas. They see the need to keep pace with change and see value of change in areas like health, transport and education. Their most pressing concerns are on the impact of technology on society: privacy, desocialisation and the perception that lifestyles are becoming increasingly disposable. Our biggest group at 34% of the population, more likely to be female, and typically affluent.

 

Innovation Sceptics: Are concerned about the pace of change in society. They are cautious and practical, placing low value on new ideas until they are confident they have a practical value.They often feel a sense of powerlessness and a feeling of being left behind, worrying about the impacts of change on job security and how society adapts to change overall. This group makes up 16% of the population, are typically female, young and less affluent.

 

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Why I changed career direction and retrained as a computing teacher

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This is a guest blog by BCS teacher training scholar Martin Smith who explains why he decided to change direction and retrain as a computing teacher following a successful 10 year career as a web-designer.

The launch of the BCS scholarships last year coincided with my decision to re-train as a computing teacher - so it worked out really well for me. Everything lined up at the right time.martin_smith_pic_for_bcs.jpg

The BCS scholarship has done exactly what it is designed to do. It helped me financially and got me through my teacher training course. As a career changer, I'm doing this later in life, so the scholarship has been brilliant as it has meant that I can concentrate on what I am doing, without turning my family's life upside-down.

I decided to switch to teaching as I felt it would be very rewarding and would really make a difference in terms of giving something back. I remember having a lot of help from one particular teacher when I was at school. Later in life, I realised what an effect this had on making me the person I am today.

I did a degree in Geology, and that's when I started doing a bit of HTML. I spent a lot of time coding my dissertation and enjoyed it. After graduating, I got a job as junior web developer and went on to work for a search engine optimisation company. In 2010, I won a Digital Entrepreneur Web Developer of the Year Award. I'd worked long and hard to reach that point in my career and it was around that time I realised that I wanted a change. I had been doing the same work for quite a while and wanted a fresh challenge. Although it would be a big change for me, I felt that I could bring plenty of industry experience to the job. I heard about the BCS scholarships, so I applied, went along for the interviews and did the tests. I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship.

Working in web development has given me a very logical way of thinking which will help when it comes to teaching computing. Thanks to my previous roles, I'm used to presenting ideas to lots of people, questioning them, persuading them, talking to them and getting them to think about things from different angles. So there is plenty of cross-over from this to my new role as a teacher.

I am doing my course though Colchester Teacher Training Consortium (CTTC) and have been very fortunate as I have already found a job (at Philip Morant School in Colchester) which I start full time in July.  It will give me time to find my feet ahead of the new intake in September when I will take on a form as well. I'm really looking forward to being in the classroom and teaching. The new computing curriculum has more of a focus on computer science and logic. It's going to be great in that I can use my knowledge to help shape and mould it.

We live in a time where everything depends on technology, yet children don't have much of an idea how things work. I want kids to realise that computers are not just consumables and I hope to get more of them interested in computing. When I was a kid we thought computers were new, cool and cutting edge, but today kids are born in to a digital world and take it all for granted.  We need to get people to think about technology differently and develop an interest in it from an early age.

The computer games industry is worth billions and kids play them, but may not realise that it is actually someone's job to create them. This industry could dry up if we don't do help to spark an interest and encourage people to go in it. That's true for all technology jobs. We need to nurture and develop talent.  We need to make kids realise that what they learn now will potentially help make an important contribution in the future.

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Avoiding office politics: By working at home

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This is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design. 

If you want to know how the workplace is changing, look no further than the startling results from a recent survey which showed that 62% of IT contractors claim the lack of "office politics" is behind their decision to work for themselves.

Add to that a recent survey which showed that 81% of UK workers want a change from the 9-5 'shift' and you start to view the sea change in the British workplace, or at least in attitudes of British employees. 

So is office politics really turning people off in their droves? And if so, there are two problems we have to solve:Thumbnail image for gareth cartman image.jpg

1)      Workplaces need less conflict & better communication (conflict & poor communication are often behind much of what we would call 'office politics')

2)      We need to embrace remote working & make it work for us, not against us - it's an inevitability 

Reducing conflict, improving communication

IT workers don't like office politics - and you can pretty much guarantee that many other departments dislike it, too. Office politics proliferates when there's a lack of communication, and silo mentalities that result in conflict. 

Tackling silos is the first step in any organisation. Silos happen when leaders don't talk to each other. They fester, and resentment festers - information doesn't cross between silos, and a blame culture arises. No wonder IT workers (stereotypically not the most outgoing of people) don't want to get involved.

We thought that the open plan offices of the 90s would have ended silos, but instead they've continued to build. It's top-down, and cuts across the business. To end silos, you should:

-          get leaders talking & agreeing on one common objective

-          get everyone to see the big picture

-          define common goals, and reward common achievements

-          encourage cross-department collaboration

What makes this easier is the explosion in business social networking tools. For years, organisations have banned social media in the workplace, but are seemingly now willing to accept facebook-style collaboration tools. It seems that one of the keys to ending workplace silos is to mimick social networks - research seems to indicate that productivity is up as a result. IT workers especially seem to benefit. 

Making remote working work for employers

For too long, the discussion about remote work has centred around it "working for the employee". The idea of work/life balance, less commuting, freedom to work more flexible hours has caught on, and employers have had to adapt as a result.

Let's turn it on its head. How can you actually get a better quality of work out of employees? IT workers would rather stay out of the office - and that's fine. Let's accept that as the norm - how can we use this situation as employers to improve quality?

Firstly - systems. We mentioned business social networking tools, but ERP, CRM, Marketing tools, sales dashboards... they all need to work around employees, not the other way round.

The CRM industry, for instance (often the chattiest of the lot) has been talking about mobile for years - it's only now that businesses have finally accepted mobile as an essential 'strategy'. Why? Because people aren't using their tools. Not only are people forming silos in the workplace, the tools are becoming silos of their own.

One major global business (who shall remain unnamed) had multiple CRM systems, and multiple installations of the same system - because nobody talked to anyone else. Systems - at least integrated ones - are able to bring people together, so long as they meet peoples' needs. Why do you think dictators are so keen to bring down Twitter?

The current "BIG" need is the ability to collaborate with colleagues wherever you go. In the coffee shop, on the train, wherever. So if we're going to make remote working 'work' for businesses, the focus has to be on a) making it easy to use these tools, and b) driving user adoption. A should beget B.

The results are obvious to HR professionals, and they should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. More productive employees are generally happier ones. They're achieving something. What's more, you're giving them the flexibility they demanded, so you're going to get some loyalty, and potentially even a competitive advantage in the much-fabled 'war for talent' which - after a brief hiatus - is apparently back 'on' (we could argue that in IT, it has never been 'off'). 

We can't predict the future shape of the workplace with any seriousness, but we can see its direction. Workplace technology is taking on consumer technology, and the result is that employees are expecting this technology not just to support their work/life balance but to actually make their workplace a more collaborative, more enjoyable place to work.

The systems we run have to meet that demand. They have to meet users' requirements for flexibility, and they have to be used. If employers can concentrate on building tools around employees, then not only do we start to solve the common problem of "how much money have we wasted on this software nobody uses" - but we also start to break down the silos that cause so much friction within the workplace, and that drive out some of the most talented IT professionals into contracting roles.

I'd call that a no-brainer.

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Park Street Hacker Elite coding club receive £1k donation from Bango after kids write letter for support

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Mobile payments firm Bango has given the 'Park Street Hacker Elite' coding club £1,000 for equipment, after the children aged seven to nine wrote to the company asking for support.

 

The coding club takes place at Park Street Primary School in Cambridge, and the children used the money to buy screens, cables and other accessories for the five Raspberry Pis which the school won in the 'Hour of Code' competition before Christmas.

Bango specialises in mobile payment for app stores including the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and BlackBerry.

Richard Leyland, vice president of marketing communications at Bango said: "Coding is a new literacy. Like reading and writing, it will be a fundamental skill for the next generation at work.

"Teaching young children to code fluently is vital for the UK's connected economy. We're really happy to support the next generation of programmers!"

Currently the children are learning to code on a programme called Scratch, but the club hopes the new equipment, and with support from Bango's developer Simone Masiero, that the children will be learning other coding languages by the end of the year.

The club hope this will progress onto robotics and other creative Raspberry Pi projects.

Teacher Mark Calleja, who set up and runs the club said: "We are really grateful to Bango for their support. It is helping Park Street get totally ready for the change in curriculum in September, which will mean everyone has to learn to code at primary school."

The club, that takes place every Tuesday after school, was oversubscribed. The organisers ended up having to choose 20 members by ballot.

 "We were only supposed to have 12 kids" said Calleja.

"But as Bango have also supplied us with a skilled developer to help run the club, we could stretch to 20, which is great!"

The children in the coding club are set to appear on the BBC's Naked Scientists programme this coming Sunday at 6pm on 96 and 95.7 FM.

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Going against the crowd

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This is a guest blog by Joe Chadwick, 20 - Advanced Apprentice at Fujitsu UK & Ireland -  Business Administration

I finished A-levels a year and a half ago and started a business operations apprenticeship with Fujitsu last July. I haven't looked back since. I would, hand on heart, recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who is thinking of boosting their career, while still being able to learn at the same time. I am really happy in my current role and I'm looking forward to developing my career at Fujitsu further.

Joe Chadwick.jpg

The funny thing is, I almost ended up going to university. My college encouraged everyone to follow the traditional university route, regardless of their ambitions. It nearly forced UCAS upon us and as a result every single one of my classmates ended up doing a degree. I was the only one who stood against the norm and went on to do an apprenticeship.

I knew from the start that university wasn't for me - I wanted to progress my career straight away and get the advantage of learning on the job and earning at the same time. At university you get to work with a very limited group of people - of similar backgrounds, age and experiences.

All the work you do is very individual, and while deadlines are still there and push you to work hard, it is not the same as when you are an apprentice. When you do an apprenticeship, you learn skills that are transferable and get to cooperate with a variety of people with different roles, backgrounds, ages and experience, which is extremely valuable to employers today.

Recently, I have been offered to work in a brand new cloud support team within Fujitsu - and I'm really excited about this new opportunity. I know very well it can be difficult to follow through on your ambitions and go against what everyone else expects, but if you are thinking about doing an apprenticeship, as opposed to going to university, you shouldn't be afraid of doing it.

Being yourself will pay off if you take the opportunities presented to you and work hard. I know I'm on the right route to a successful career and that I made the right choice for me. Don't be afraid to make yours. 

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Oracle's academy helping teachers overcome programming fears

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I met with Jane Richardson, director of Oracle Academy EMEA, last week who run me through how the academy works and the recent increase in demand from computer science teachers.

Jane said for many teachers coding starts off as something to be feared; however by the end of a training day they realise it's not that bad.

"The teachers then take it to the students who love it and want to learn the next part," she said.

There has always been a struggle between industry and education however Jane said to close the skills gap it is important for education and industry to work together. This is particularly important to enable teachers to overcome the fear of programming for use in the new curriculum.

Oracle invited 100 teachers to take part in its Java Fundamentals Teacher Training, but Jane said the important part is not to prescribe how teachers should use their training: "We might teach 180 hours of Java but teachers may only use 20 of it. We don't prescribe how you should use it."

Oracle's Academy offers training in several formats for computer science teachers wanting to learn programming to shape it to their own curriculum content or to help run after school coding clubs.  

Training can be taken in-class through instructor-led sessions over five days, through a mixture of virtual and classroom training or through custom training for those with time constraints.

The academy also offers an Experience Pass for teachers who may already possess knowledge of Java, database design, SQL, or PL/SQL and can opt-out of certain training modules.

Jane is also a contributor to IT Works

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Apprenticeship - My chosen route

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This is a guest blog by Rachel Hodgson, 19, higher apprentice, CFS finance at Fujitsu UK & Ireland

 

Rachel from Fujitsu.pngI started my apprenticeship with Fujitsu in September 2013, after completing my A-levels in Accountancy, Maths and Economics in May 2013. I applied to become an apprentice as I wanted to train for a professional qualification through a combination of work and study.  I currently work in the CFS Finance department based in Warrington and I'm incredibly happy that I made this choice.

 

I chose an apprenticeship as I didn't want to wait for three or four years before entering into the world of work as I would have had to do, if I'd have followed the traditional university degree route. I knew a career in accountancy was the route I wanted to follow after having completed work experience for an accountancy firm over the summer, and by completing a level 4 higher apprenticeship with Fujitsu, I would have the equivalent qualifications to somebody who had completed an accountancy degree, but I would be debt-free. The combination of the aforementioned factors led me to decide to do an apprenticeship with Fujitsu.

 

Thanks to my apprenticeship, I've gained a lot of useful, transferable skills that I wouldn't have learnt if I'd have gone to university. One particular skill set that I feel I have really developed is team work. Now that I'm working at Fujitsu, I get to learn a lot about working with different people, of all ages, and get to experience a professional working environment. At university, you only get to work with people who are the same age as you but in an apprenticeship, you get to learn from the experience and the knowledge of the senior people at the company that you get to interact with, which is really beneficial for your career.  

 

What's even better is the fact that I can develop my professional qualifications whist working. I'm currently studying for a CIMA certificate alongside my apprenticeship and I want to carry on doing that and see where it takes me.

 

If I had to make the choice between going to university and becoming an apprentice again, I would definitely choose an apprenticeship. I don't think people should follow the norm - it's important to be yourself and know what you want to get out of your career. Personally, I feel like I now have a massive advantage over peers who have gone to university, as more and more employers now look at your work experience before they offer you a job.

 

If you have just graduated from university, it is more than likely you will have no or very little work experience, business experience or life experience, so even if your college pushes you to do UCAS, apprenticeships are really worth considering. A lot of people feel there is a general consensus that going to university should be the next step after college and apprenticeships almost seem to still have that second-hand stigma, but it really paid off for me to stand against the norm and apply for this apprenticeship.

 

Ultimately, I have experience working for a global ICT company and in addition, I will soon get my certification and in the meantime I have learnt useful skills that can be easily transferred into any other job; simply put, I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

 


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National Apprenticeship Week: From an IT apprentice 15 years on

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This is a guest blog from Matthew Bell, education programme manager at Autodesk Education Europe.

 

This week celebrates the seventh year of National Apprenticeship Week, helping to raise the profile of apprenticeships in the UK at a time when many young people are potentially struggling to get onto the career ladder.

 

It's of particular significance to me too. While I currently head up the European Secondary Education team at Autodesk in Europe, I started out my career nearly 15 years ago in 1996, as an engineering apprentice at UCB Films. By one of those strange quirks of fate, I actually broke my leg at an early stage of the apprenticeship scheme, and the only room they could find that would accommodate my wheelchair was the drawing office.

 

As I couldn't reach the manual drawing boards that were being used at the time, I was put in front of the only computer in the building running AutoCAD - which sowed the seeds for my current role.

 

For any young person considering what to do with their lives, they should seriously look at apprenticeship schemes. While this shouldn't be the main motivator, I was earning substantially more in my late teens than many of my friends, at the same time as I was learning - in essence I was getting paid to be at college.

 

Another key consideration is that you are almost guaranteed a job at the end of your scheme, especially in the field of Engineering and Manufacturing where we see significant skills gaps in the UK. Anyone looking at doing a degree will have been told of the difficulties of securing a job once you've finished your education.

 

The relationship between degrees and apprenticeships is an interesting question, and has resulted in some stigma being attached to becoming an apprentice. It is still often seen as a choice for those that don't have what it takes to do a degree, yet in reality you can continue your apprentice training up to degree level; it never did me any harm.  Vocational Education across the globe is raising its profile, especially through organisations such as WorldSkills which allow young people to compete on an Olympic stage in areas such as Engineering, Construction, Creative Arts and many more, and the continued support for Apprenticeships in the UK shows that this will only increase.

 

The main advice I'd give is that you have to be open to the opportunities that apprenticeship schemes present. They provide much needed industry experience, allow you to earn while you learn, and provide qualifications for you to work in STEM-based industries, which are crying out for qualified people at the moment.

 

We're still in a mindset where it is "A-level/Degree/Job", whereas the apprentice route is just as valid, and still more needs to be done by the government and education institutions for pupils to see these schemes as a worthy choice for their future career.

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Nominet's apprenticeship scheme 2014 open for applicants

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Applications for Nominet's 2014 apprenticeship scheme are open again. Now in its fourth year the apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers and are based in the Oxford Science Park.

The apprenticeship roles last between 12 and 14 months, enabling the candidate to work alongside technical teams, a line manager and a workplace mentor.

Working on real life projects the scheme aims to encourage more young people into careers in technology. 

Gill Crowther, director of human resources at Nominet, said: "We've been really impressed with our apprentices - they've made a difference doing real jobs straight away and have developed quickly in our informal, technology-focused environment.

"At Nominet, we're absolutely committed to developing skills and talent and our apprenticeship scheme is perfect for school leavers who want to get ahead in software development and internet infrastructure."

Paul Wakelam, joined as an apprentice in 2011 and later applied for a full-time role at Nominet as a systems administrator.

Wakelam said: "Nominet is a unique and interesting place to work. Since I've been here, I've been exposed to leading edge technology as well as working alongside and learning from some of the great technical minds in the industry.

"I believe it offers a terrific opportunity to take that, often tricky, first step into the technical industry, and the mix of training and experience gives you a solid platform for your future career."

 

National Apprenticeship Week: Sticking to your guns

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This is a guest blog by Stephanie Palmer, higher apprentice, business administration at Fujitsu UK & Ireland.

wedding.jpgWhen I was at college, I was told to apply to university, even though I didn't want to. My college was focused on getting people into university. As it was the norm, the end of the school year came and I started attending university.

However after a year, I dropped out as I realised that it really wasn't for me. I didn't like the culture of attending a lecture for an hour then going back home. I felt as though I was twiddling my thumbs a little bit and didn't have much to do as I thought I would have.

At the same time I still wanted to study and get a qualification. So when I came across the Fujitsu apprenticeship scheme, where I was able to work and learn at the same time, I knew it was the right choice for me. I am currently studying my level 4 business administration course, while working as an executive assistant in the same department.

What I liked most about the apprenticeship approach is that I could get all the skills I needed, while working towards a qualification. Now, a year into my apprenticeship, when I compare myself with university students who have studied for three years to get a degree and come out with no business experience, I feel very lucky.

I've gained real world experience in a working environment, without giving up on gaining a qualification. I really love that about the Fujitsu apprenticeship scheme, it was also one of the key factors when making the decision. Saying that, it was still a difficult decision to drop out of university at the time, especially as it's what all my peers were doing, but I am glad I did it. I always knew I wanted to do something more than study.

Most importantly, my apprenticeship has given me the confidence I was lacking during school and university to make the decisions that are right for me. When I first started working at Fujitsu, I could barely look people in the eye, and I didn't want to talk to any of the managers as I was unsure about what to say. But now I am completely different, and I think that has been the biggest learning curve for me. At university you can't learn these types of soft skill - which is another reason I would recommend an apprenticeship.

Looking towards the future, I can see myself working at Fujitsu for a long time. I would love to progress within my training too, hopefully looking to move to a level 5 apprentice, and then to a level 6.

 

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Why I chose an apprenticeship over University

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This is a guest blog from Danielle Elliot, software engineer, Capgemini UK

 

I always really enjoyed IT and knew I wanted to make a career out of it. But, when it came to leaving school, I think the teachers were expecting all the students to go to university and were gearing everyone up for it, but it really wasn't for me and I was determined not to follow a set path.Blogimage.jpeg

 

I felt like I wanted to be able to get stuck into a real job to build my experience, earn a good salary and work towards getting a qualification that would help me get my foot on the ladder. So, I applied for the Capgemini apprenticeship scheme in 2013 and was lucky enough to start that same July having only left Sixth form in June 2013.

 

Capgemini is one of the world's biggest IT consulting companies and I currently work as a software engineer and, at the moment, I'm one of only a few women in the sector; something which Capgemini is working hard to correct. Having gone to an all girls secondary school and sixth form I knew first-hand the lack of young people going into an IT profession.

 

On the scheme, I've been able to learn on the job, avoid debt and also work within the field I am genuinely interested in. From day one, I've been treated like an employee and not just a young person, which means I get to work on big projects and client sites. I am currently working with a team of people to develop an on-boarding app.

 

I think that has helped my development and means I feel as mature as I imagine University leavers are. Team working, collaborative skills and a chance to build successful relationships with clients, suppliers and colleagues are some of the skills I've learnt in my time as an apprentice.

 

I recently read that over 900,000 young people are out of work or education. That's exactly why Apprenticeship Week is so important in driving awareness of the opportunities available to young people other than Uni.

 

A good apprenticeship scheme lets you continue with your education and get the direct experience that is always going to be attractive to future employers.  And, really important, you do this all while still earning a decent living. Working in the IT field, I do hear a lot about a growing skills gap, particularly around a lack of women seeing this as a career option, for me it seems that apprenticeships can play an important role in helping show people that IT is a viable option.

 

Of course, employers also benefit from a good apprentice scheme. They get to mould new apprentices, through specialist training programmes, allowing them to develop a skilled workforce perfectly suited to their needs.

 

I've been lucky enough to find an IT job where you get back what you put in, and the best thing about being an apprentice is that it gives you the opportunity to put what you learn into practice. And practice makes perfect, right!?

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A focus on STEM careers is for life, not just Apprenticeship Week

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This is a guest blog by Jessica Batts, Nuclear Safety Engineer, EDF Energy

 

I joined EDF Energy straight from 6th Form three years ago to work as a nuclear safety engineer, which essentially means I help ensure the nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point B Power Station are running safely and efficiently. People are often quite surprised when I tell them I work in the nuclear industry. Perhaps because they still associate scientists with the 'nerdy' stereotype, or perhaps because the term 'nuclear' is still something that people don't know enough about.

Jess B.JPG 

However, I've always had a fascination with science and finding out why and how things do what they do. This curiosity made a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) a really great match and an exciting opportunity for me. Since working with EDF Energy I've not only been able to develop my passion for science and engineering, but have also been given the opportunity to take a three year Foundation Degree in Nuclear Engineering, enabling me to continue gaining qualifications whilst working.

 

Unfortunately this isn't the case for many people. The news recently reported that by the time they finish primary school as many as 83 per cent of children have already discounted a career in science. This figure is really worrying; there are so many exciting career prospects for young people related to STEM subjects and we are facing a huge skills gap in the UK. Something needs to be done to help make science and engineering exciting to the young generation.

 

The UK is the world's sixth largest nation in terms of manufacturing, with engineering providing an annual turnover of around £800 billion. We also produce 10 per cent of the world's top scientific research - making it crucial that young people are engaged and educated around the STEM career opportunities out there. The reality is that we are going to need expert engineers and smart scientists in the future.

 

One of the reasons I chose to do an apprenticeship rather than go to university is so I could work and get a qualification at the same time. This was very attractive to me, especially given how many university graduates are finding it difficult to get work following their degree. I don't see a vocational qualification as any less vital than a university qualification, if anything it's more so as it give a practical application to some of the skills learnt in the classroom. In addition, several members of EDF Energy's executive team actually started within the company as apprentices.

 

STEM is a huge part of everyone's lives, whether they embrace it or not. It shapes the world around us; it is our past, present and most importantly our future. We therefore need to engage and excite young people about the opportunities available in these fields in order to maintain a sustainable future.

 

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