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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Argos joins the board of Go ON UK to help nation overcome online skills barriers

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High street retailer Argos has joined the board of Go ON UK. The cross sector charity aims to help the 11 million adults who lack basic online skills to utilise the internet.

 

John Walden, Argos managing director has joined Go ON UK's foundering members BBC, TalkTalk, EE, Lloyds Banking Group, Big Lottery Fund, Age UK, E.ON, and Post Office.

 

By joining the board Argos commits to the charity's Digital Skills Charter which means Argos will help to improve the digital skills of its colleagues and appoint 'Digital Champions' within its business. The charter also means Argos has committed to making more of its services available online and will help more customers access these services to start transacting online.

 

Baroness Martha Lane-Fox, chair of Go ON UK said it is the charity's mission to make the UK the most digitally skilled nation in the world: "Whether it's an individual keeping in touch with family and friends, a small business looking to boost sales, or a charity hoping to start fundraising online, we need to ensure that they have Basic Online Skills needed to achieve their goals.

 

"I am delighted to welcome Argos to the Board of Go ON UK. With their reach in communities all across the country, and initiatives like their digital concept stores, they can really help us bring basic online skills to more people than ever before."

 

On his appointment to the board Walden said Argos is responding to how its customers want to shop: "Argos serves around 124 million customers a year through its stores, website and apps, so we understand how and when people are interacting with the digital world."

 

Walden added "We recognise that not all customers can access online, or are comfortable with technology. They know that their ability to find out information, engage with friends and family and buy goods and services depends on accessing the internet, but there are barriers for a number of reasons.

 

"Our ambition is to help people overcome those barriers, and we are pleased to continue that journey by being part of The Go ON UK board."

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Opportunity to secure paid internships at Workshare through East London coding lessons

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Workshare, Raspberry Pi in association with BCS The Chartered Institute of IT, and Tower Hamlets Integrated Youth and Community Services (IYCS) have joined forces to bring coding and an awareness of careers in IT to young people in East London.  

 

The scheme has been created to address the IT skills shortage and to encourage more young people to take an interest in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Raspberry Pi Closeup

Raspberry Pi Closeup (Photo credit: GijsbertPeijs)

 

Employees from Workshare will use Raspberry Pi machines to teach 40 young people lessons in coding, over the course of five weeks. The lessons will be supported by youth workers from IYCS.

The lessons that will be taught have been developed by Workshare in conjunction with Dr. Andrew Robinson of Manchester University, and recruitment firm Resonate.

 

At the end of the five weeks students can enter their work into a competition, where the top three students will have the chance to secure paid internships at Workshare during the summer of 2014. To enter the competition students will need to develop their applications and present them to a panel of Workshare employees and other industry judges.

 

Anthony Foy, chief executive of Workshare, said: "As the IT skills shortage threatens to restrain UK's economic recovery, the onus is on businesses to foster interest in IT and equip our young people with the technical knowledge they need for professional success.

 

"At Workshare, we take pride in our community and are committed to building a better future for the younger generation. Workshare is honoured to work closely with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to educate our local community about the benefits of working in technology."

 

UK Commission for Employment and Skills research recently found one in five jobs in the UK are unfilled due to a skills shortage across all industries, including IT and computing.

 


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National Apprenticeship Week: Apprentices show greater loyalty

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Apprentices are more loyal to employers and are less likely to move than graduates, according to reseller ANS Group.

Founder and chairman of UK cloud infrastructure specialists ANS Group, Scott Fletcher, said:  "We have found that apprentices display a greater loyalty to the companies which have trained them and are less likely than graduates to move on and work for your business rivals."

ANS has an apprenticeship academy that is part of the government's 'Employer Ownership of Skill Pilot.' The academy trains up to 50 'cloud apprentices' a year.

"A lot of companies are now starting to grasp the nettle and it's resulting in a lot of innovation - on our apprenticeship scheme there is hardly any classroom time, for example, it's mostly on the job," Fletcher added.

He said more involvement from employers in developing apprenticeships is essential: "The quality of apprenticeships is a particularly poignant issue in the high-tech business sector. There is no way that a local college can keep pace with the speed of change in IT and by the time they have developed a course it is generally out of date. More involvement from employers in developing apprenticeships is essential."

He concluded: "It would be great to think we could have 1000's of young people every year being work ready with the appropriate STEM skills at eighteen. Given the growth expected in the digital sector, it is essential that we address the skills shortage."







How impressive are the Apps for Good awards winners this year?

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A few weeks ago Apps for Good announced the launch of the apps that won its 2013 awards and having gone through the winners I wanted to highlight just how brilliant these ideas are.

 

Appa for good awards 2013.jpgEach year the Apps for Good Awards are given to top apps created by student teams.

 

A panel of industry leaders select the winning apps that aim to solve a real-world problem in a new way.

 

The judges pick their winners based on apps that have a good user experience, are technically feasible and have a clearly defined market.

 

The winning apps are then built professionally by Apps for Good's developer partners and launched to the public for download.

 

You can now download all of the winning apps here and watch short clips of each app here.

 

Here are the winning apps fully developed and ready for download:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for App 1 cattle manager app.jpg

 

Winning app: 'Cattle Management'

 

Category: Power to do More - Getting the most from your time

Description: This app helps farmers to track and manage information about their cattle.

School: Wick High School, Caithness

Winning team: John (15), Keiran (15), Ryan (14)

 

 

 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for App 3 pitch pals app.jpgWinning app: 'Pitch Pals'

 

Category: Keep Moving - Doing things on the go

Description: Uses playful animal characters to make instrument tuning fun for children.

School: Stratford Girls' Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Winning team: Jamie (14), Emma (14), Kate (14), Annie (14)

 

 

 

 

App 4 pocupation app.jpgWinning app: 'Pockupation'

 

Category: Saving, Spending and Giving - Making the most from your money

Description: Helps teens find odd jobs in their local communities to earn pocket money.

School: The Abbey School, Reading, Berkshire

Winning team: Chand (14), Enya (14), Erin (13), Abigail (14)

 

 

 

 

 

App 2 doglog app.jpgWinning app: 'Dog Log'

 

Category: Learning and Information - Helping others learn and using information for good

Description: Makes looking after your pet fun with points for good care.

School:

Wick High School, Caithness

Winning team: Caitlin (14), Beth (15), Rebekah (14), Jeri (14)

 

 

 

App 6 supportive schdule app.jpgWinning app: 'Supportive Schedule'

 

Category: Our World - Encouraging sustainable and healthy lifestyles

Description: Helps people with learning difficulties and Alzheimer's Disease plan their daily routines.

School: Nelson Thomlinson School, Wigton, Cumbria

Winning team: Lauren (15), Bryony (15), Natasha (15), Eilidh (15), Joshua (15), Tara (15)

 

 

 

App 7 the story wall app.jpgWinning app: 'Story Wall'

 

Category: Connected Communities - Using technology to unite interests, ideas and good causes

Description: Collaborative story-telling app.

School: Cockburn School, Leeds

Winning team: Joe (13), Emma (13), Teigan (13), Holly (13)

 

 

 

 

 

App 5 social bank app.jpgWinning app: 'SociaBank'

 

Category: People's Choice Award

Description: Makes saving fun for young people.

School: Mount Grace School, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

Winning team: Jack (14), Arlo (14), Andrew (14), Adam (13)

 

 

Congratulations to all of the winners on the launch of your apps!


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Drupal Camp 2014 takes place at City Uni London this weekend

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DrupalCamp 2014 is taking place 28 February - 2 March at the City University London, where computer science students will gather to learn about Drupal open software.

Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) used by user communities and for online content. Over a million websites are run by Drupal including the Cabinet Office, the World Economic Forum, the Grammy Awards, Oxford University and The Economist.

Over 600 students, Drupal open source software enthusiasts, established businesses and start-ups will attend from all over Europe.

The open source event aims to create a wider awareness of the Drupal community.

Leon Tong, Director of BrightLemon and one of the organisers of DrupalCamp London 2014 said: "DrupalCamp London 2014 is partnering with the Drupal Association on Drupal Global Training Days.

"City students have been invited to attend sessions and the training they receive will bolster central and local government initiatives around getting young people into the technology sector."

Alex Elkins, manager of City's Professional Liaison Unit (PLU), said: "City is very excited to be hosting DrupalCamp London 2014. This is a fantastic event drawing people from across the globe to our campus. The Drupal community has invested tremendous confidence in our facilities, students, academics and our proximity to Tech City and the digital industries.

"This is a valuable opportunity for our students to network with industry professionals for future employment and to gain exposure to leading edge technology and its applications."
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Training future generations - do we need IT skills or attitudes?

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gareth cartman image.jpgThis is a guest blog from Gareth Cartman, director of digital marketing at Clever Little Design.

I find all this talk about making kids code a little strange. I'm no coder, but as a teenager, I remember taking coding books out of the library and transcribing them onto a BBC Micro in BBC Basic. And then I'd break them, because as an inquisitive teenager, that's what you do. You code, you break it, you modify and you end up with something new.

 

It's this inquisitive nature that drives many coders. I'm sat in a room with three of them, right now as I write. Not one of them learnt coding from anyone older than themselves. They read books, they experiment, they learn from each other and from their peers...

 

So why, all of a sudden, do we need ALL of our kids to become coders?

 

It looks to me as if the government is staring like rabbits in the headlights at what it thinks is a forthcoming digital revolution. But the digital revolution has already happened, and it's been driven by coders who taught themselves how to code.

 

So rather than teaching kids how to code, shouldn't we be encouraging them to acquire more abstract traits? Such as...

 

Being more inquisitive

 

Kids are naturally inquisitive. I have two at home, the youngest of which is just 6 months. Put anything in front of him, and he'll be trying to eat it, smash it, break it. As a parent, I've learned that it's my job to encourage his inquisitive nature, at least within certain limits. I don't want him to fear my reaction every time he reaches out for something.

 

As kids grow, we should be looking to nurture that inquisitiveness - the idea that you can experiment, iterate, break things (again, within limits), and try to push the limits of your abilities.

 

Learning to code would simply establish a framework that says "this is how to code", but it doesn't teach you how to push the boundaries.

 

Being more rigorous

 

Coding is hard work. It's detailed - and a lot of people learning coding get frustrated at the level of detail required. You've missed a </div> tag? Go find it yourself.

 

The level of rigour is overwhelming. For those who are not coders.

 

Perhaps coding is a good way of instilling that rigour in children, and its application in a wider sense (learning languages, mathematics, history) would be welcomed. However, the idea that we're going to bring up a coding generation is way off the mark unless we instil these traits elsewhere.

 

Being adaptable

 

A further problem with teaching children how to code is that the code they learn will be outdated in a few years' time. You cannot anticipate advances in technology.

 

I remember learning French at school in the 1980s and early 90s - we were taught that the French always say "comme ci, comme ca". Try saying that to a French person today, they'll look at you as if you're trying to murder the French language. Even languages move on and evolve, and you have to keep up. Code doesn't just evolve, it metamorphoses.

 

The key is to be adaptable - the best coders are ahead of the game, reading up on new technologies and looking to learn new languages. We will never build a "nation of coders" if we're not instilling adaptability into our children in everything they do.

 

Coders will be coders

 

Coders are a breed apart. They have a unique combination of many skills and attributes, which is why so many of them are so well paid.

 

They have skills and attributes that many of us don't have - or can't combine to the level they do. And that's why most of us will never code.

 

However, if we want more coders, it would pay to instil the three attributes I've outlined above into our children across the board. Don't limit their inquisitive nature, help them build a level of rigour and detail, and make them adaptable. These are skills that will stand them in good stead whatever they do - and it might just make them want to code.

 

The ultimate aim is to ensure that school-leavers enter the workforce with the right skills, but I don't believe schools are there to teach skills. That's what we as employers are meant to do. Schools are meant to teach the right attitudes. You never remember your quadratic equations, but you always (should) remember the thinking behind it.

 

Coders will be coders, designers will be designers, marketers will be marketers - instil the right attitudes first, and let employers teach the skills.

 


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Myth busting can keep students open minded about a career in IT

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This is a guest blog from Adelle Desouza, partner marketing manager at Enlogic

As readers of my previous blogs will know, I am passionate about encouraging young people to consider a career in the IT industry. So naturally, I jumped at the invitation to speak with a group of secondary school students from Greenwood Academy as part of a recent Business in the Community (BITC) event in Birmingham. This was a great opportunity to dispel some of the myths that surround the industry I work in and stress the importance of staying open minded about career options, especially as my audience would be year 9s - 13 to 14 year olds - who had just chosen their GCSE subjects.

Adelle blog 2.jpegWith five companies attending and 60 students to speak to, I didn't have long. However, I wanted to understand their thinking process when it comes to choosing a career and to gauge their thoughts about the tech industry as a whole. To achieve this I asked two questions: "what are you looking for most in a future career?" and "would you consider a career in IT?"

The results were conclusive if unsurprising. The majority - 45 of the 60 students - said that money is the most important thing to them when deciding on a career. A similar imbalance was true for the second question, although this time 49 out of the 60 students said they wouldn't consider IT as a career choice.

As I said, I didn't find the results surprising but I wanted to find out why the figures were so biased and address any issues behind them. From my discussions with the group I was able to understand what the students' perceived a 'good job' to be. Their definition was any job that 'pays well' - a term which by its nature is relative and so I wasn't surprised when the students couldn't give me an exact amount that would constitute well paid. This was worrying in itself, although not as worrying as the students' perception of what IT jobs are like - a worker stuck behind a desk in an artificially lit office, forgotten about until something technical goes wrong. This description also matched perfectly with the attributes that would put them off of a job. To try and bust these myths I discussed my role with them and the opportunities it has afforded me to travel. This helped to dispel the misconception many of them had of IT and some even told me how surprised they were that jobs in the IT industry can be so diverse.

Adelle blog 1.jpegMany of the students also questioned the background requirements they felt were needed for an IT career. One person believed that you have to be "really clever, pretty geeky, good at Maths and Physics as well as being pretty confident". I explained that all industries need to be made up of a broad spectrum of people with different skills and attributes and once again, I was able to draw on my own experiences. I told the students about the variety of subjects I studied at school and how important it is to keep your options open at their age.

By the end of the day, I was glad to hear that some students had changed their view on the industry and taken on board my message about keeping their options open. However, it did make me consider whether the industry puts itself on an elitist pedestal and whether the younger generations believe that it's an accessible enough career path to give it proper consideration. As an industry we must continue to keep a steady line of communication between us and the younger generations. This will ensure the IT industry as a whole is fed from the bottom up with a range of people that offer different characteristics.

Altogether, it was a successful day that was made all the better when I was invited back to meet with the rest of the year. This was truly humbling and I look forward to returning in the future.

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Businesses, education and training providers need to work together

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Thumbnail image for Chant_Lee_4805_72dpi_rgb.jpgThis is a guest blog from Lee Chant, UK and Ireland IT and telecoms managing director at Hays IT who shares his views on the Year of Code and the best way to teach coding to young people.

Any initiative to encourage young people to embrace technology is a good thing, and the fact that coding will become part of the national curriculum in September is a welcome move, but we simply can't afford to wait a decade for these young people to leave school with the skills that employers need immediately. The employers we work with are struggling to find sufficient numbers of skilled coders to keep up with demand, and this will have a real impact on economic growth if not resolved quickly.  

The education system has a vital role to play in teaching young people the core attributes and skills that make good coders, many of which will also be essential to provide the digital skills that increasingly required in many industries, from marketing to finance, in the future. However, employers also have an important role to play in upskilling their existing workforces, and in being flexible in their recruitment to find employees with the transferable skills and ability to learn new technologies.

Businesses need to work closely with education and training providers to invest in targeted training to provide the skills they need, and ensure this training is up-to-date with new technologies. The input from employers is crucial to ensure that these new initiatives do not rapidly become out of date, educators can not predict changing technology alone.

For this reason at Hays we are working with not-for-profit group Coder Dojo to give primary school children a chance to try out coding. The foundation of its success is a joined up approach between schools, parents, employers and industry experts. It relies on a contribution of time and enthusiasm for coding from all these groups to help encourage young people to consider careers in coding.

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