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Digital skills education in the UK is “patchy”, according to Christine Hodgson, chairman of both Capgemini UK and the Careers and Enterprise Company.
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Hodgson said the education surrounding technology and digital skills varies from school to school, and that technology changes so frequently schools often find it difficult to keep up.
“They say there’s a problem in the UK with the lack of digital skills,” said Hodgson. “Can teachers really keep pace with the change? It’s a big ask.”
It is estimated that a majority of the jobs young people will be entering in the future do not exist yet, and digital skills are becoming increasingly important in any job role.
Hodgson said this increase in the need for technical knowledge in non-tech roles means people across all sectors will need to know how to use technology, and leaving people without digital skills could lead to an unwillingness to learn and use technology in the future.
“If we don’t help people to learn digital skills, there’s a chance they will eventually be more disengaged,” she said.
Many believe that to address the IT skills gap, companies from the IT industry should collaborate with schools, colleges and universities to ensure people leave education with the right skills.
Hodgson said employers should play a role in telling schools what digital skills the industry needs, ensuring as many children as possible leave school with “100% employability”.
Providing young people with digital skills
To help teach young people in the UK digital skills, Capgemini partnered with the Prince’s Trust to develop and run educational programmes to teach young people technology skills.
The programme has three streams: A one day XL Club workshop aimed at teaching troubled 13 to 19-year-olds about science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) concepts; a Get Started With Apps one week programme for underprivileged and unemployed 16 to 25-year-olds; and a Get Into programme to help 16 to 25-year-olds gain vocational training and mentoring.
Eric Lawson and Kaher Khan both completed the Get Started With Apps programme, and each had a different story to tell about the digital skills education in their school.
While Lawson stated his school was good at providing digital skills, with many entrepreneurial teachers, Khan claimed his school focused on teaching the use of Microsoft Office rather than transferable digital skills.
Khan said: “In my experience, PCs and computers were brand new and they weren’t really integrated into the curriculum.”
During the Get Started With Apps programme, Khan and Lawson spent five days learning about applications development, before designing and implementing their own applications, which they decided to pursue once the course finished.
Teaming together, they built an application designed to help children learn to read.
“The programme gave us a lot of digital skills and it gave us a lot of business acumen, as well as confidence that people are out there to help,” said Khan. “There are definitely a lot of tech things happening in the future for us.”