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Martha Lane Fox hopes digital skills college will prevent IT firms hiring “same kinds of faces”

At the opening of digital skills academy Ada College, patron Martha Lane Fox calls for the technology sector to solve the skills gap with new blood

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Technical skills

Speaking at the launch of Ada – The National College for Digital Skills, digital pioneer Martha Lane Fox said the IT industry is still in dire need of skilled recruits, especially those who come from outside the usual pool of potential employees.

Lane Fox, a patron of the college, warned IT employers of hiring the “same old kinds of faces”.

“We’ve got to fill these jobs from a broader base of people, from the people that are perhaps the most excluded from this exciting and immensely important revolution,” she said.

Lane Fox hopes the Ada College in London, which is designed to teach students digital skills, will help fill the gaps the technology industry is facing.

“I have been banging on this as a crisis for a long time, but there is a crisis and if this college can help to address that I think it’s extremely important. Currently, we have 600,000 empty jobs in the tech sector, yet this is the sector that is going to underpin our economy,” she said.

Speaking of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, after whom the college is named, Lane Fox explained Lovelace had been “schooled right at an early age in sciences and mathematics”.

“She really was a force of nature, just as I am sure this college will be,” she said.

Ada College, founded by Mark Smith and Tom Fogden, aims to target young people from under-privileged backgrounds in the Tottenham and Haringey area to give them digital skills and the opportunity to pursue a digital career.

The college hopes to train 5,000 pupils over the next five years, using a vocational approach to teaching to ensure pupils have more of an idea what it’s like to enter the industry with the skills the industry needs.

Two tracks will be available at the college: An A-level track for students between 16 and 18, and an apprenticeship track for those 19 and over, which will allow them to study and earn money at the same time.

“We wanted to develop a college that could be a centre of excellence for digital skills and an engine for social mobility,” said Smith.

Fogden said Ada College is the first subject-specific higher education facility to open in the past 23 years.

Over the next five years, Ada College hopes 40% of the students it enrolls will be women. Joysy John, the college’s chief industry officer, said this was important for the college.

“We need more women who can be role models in technology,” said John.

John organises industry engagement for the college’s apprenticeship relationships. She said the college would be important not only for inspiration and opportunities, but supporting young people and providing an industry-driven practical education.

Many industry players are involved in sponsorship for the college, including initial sponsor Gamesys, alongside games company King and computer hardware company IBM.

Helen Kelisky, vice-president of cloud for UK and Ireland at sponsor firm IBM, highlighted the importance of skills and education throughout the IT industry due to its fast moving nature.

“You’ve got to want to learn and to continue to learn otherwise we’re in danger of being left behind. We will always need more people with the right knowledge and skills to be successful,” she said.

Kelisky said she hoped Ada College would be able to “include people who have previously been excluded from the tech marketplace”. xxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

Read more about digital skills

  • Funding and pay is one of the biggest challenges to getting the right capabilities in place, according to an NAO survey.
  • Tinder Foundation, the digital inclusion agency, funds an innovation product allowing libraries to teach community members digital skills.

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It's time we start teaching reading, writing and coding to our children. It needs to start that early if we hope to change the face of IT.  And IT has to be a big part of the change, not just pick the best and move on.. 
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I think nearly everyone has a tendency to feel more comfortable working with other people who are like them. It's not just race or gender, it might be religion, economic status, interests, etc. The best managers are aware of their own potential bias and try to look past it. 
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