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CA Technologies partnered with three other technology employers to encourage Year 9 children to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers.
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Mars, GSK and Deutsche Bank volunteered its employees to help CA Technologies teach 150 students from the area around its Ditton Park headquarters what careers in Stem entail.
The day was part of the CA Technologies Create Tomorrow initiative, which aims to address the IT skills gap across Europe through creating digital jobs and educating young people about Stem roles.
Sarah Atkinson, vice-president of communications at CA Technologies, who heads up the Create Tomorrow initiative, told the students that more companies are becoming “fuelled by software”.
“Every business today really is becoming a software business – even road sweepers use software to track where they’re headed,” she said.
The event divided students into groups, ensuring the children would be interacting and working with people they did not know to give them a better feel for how collaboration may occur in the workplace.
Students attended workshops by CA Technologies and the partner firms which used hands-on activities to demonstrate the practical and creative side of Stem jobs.
Students mixed their own toothpaste formula during GSK’s session, while Mars helped the students build structures using straws that would protect eggs from breaking during a fall. Deutsche Bank ran a workshop that challenged students to design a chatbot to solve a real-world problem.
CA Technologies used its session to teach students Python coding using the BBC Microbit.
However, some argue there is too much focus on coding in the Computing curriculum, leading to a lack of understanding of how to use technology creatively and a lack of technology talent in the creative industries.
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Atkinson highlighted particular jobs and skills needed in the technology industry, such as project management, problem solving and communication, and said: “All of this relies on extremely creative and innovative curious young people.”
For most of the young people currently in the school system, the job that they will be doing in the future does not exist yet, and Atkinson told the students they should equip themselves with skills to prepare for their futures.
The events were wrapped up with a “speed networking” event where the four participating firms asked employees from all areas of their business to explain to the children what they do and the career path they took to get there.
The goal, Atkinson said, was to help the students understand the types of roles available in the IT industry and have a better idea of the qualifications they may need to fill these jobs.
The need for soft skills
Many argue that soft skills, such as creativity and communication, are just as important in technology roles as technological skills.
Richard Standen, head of engineering for GSK, told the students he looks for both in his remit, and encouraged them to “get a qualification” in tech, either through university or apprenticeships, as it can open doors in the future.
“Keep your options open – engage with employers, know the options available and use your careers service. Work hard, talk to others, but do your own research.”
A number of stereotypes exist surrounding the types of people who choose to go into tech, as well as misconceptions about what technology roles entail.
Nick Cooper, site maintenance manager at Mars, said he had no idea how creative the Stem industry could be until he joined his job at the firm: “I thought creativity was about the arts, but all the things I’ve learnt in Stem is how I can be creative through the Stem subjects.”
A shout out to diversity
There is still a lack of women in the IT industry, with the percentage of women in the industry remaining at approximately 16% over the past 10 years.
Catherine Ablott, chief operating officer for UK and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea) for Deutsche Bank, told the students more women need to join the IT industry to increase the amount of diversity in teams.
Ablott said the focus in not just technology and maths when looking for potential applicants with Stem skills: “We need people who can solve problems, are proactive and can work on projects.”
The event was organised in partnership with not-for-profit Learning to Work, which uses practical workshops and demonstrations to help young people understand more about the workplace and what it entails.