A new way to plug skills gap

Employers have been lamenting the poor quality of the students coming out of the school system for years. Poor skills in English, maths, and the inability to communicate and work in teams top their list of concerns.

Employers have been lamenting the poor quality of the students coming out of the school system for years. Poor skills in English, maths, and the inability to communicate and work in teams top their list of concerns.

Now a new diploma (click for story), which employers themselves have helped to design, promises a step change in the quality and skills of young people entering the workforce or preparing to study IT at university.

Many will be watching to see how the diploma, the first school qualification to be designed by employers, takes off.

If it succeeds, it could reverse the steady decline in the number of young people, particularly women, studying technology and going on to careers in IT.

The diploma will address the need to combine business and communication skills with technical knowledge. School students will learn how companies work, how to manage projects, and how to write business proposals, alongside programming and networking.

Creating a new qualification that meets the needs of employers from scratch is a major achievement, but much more needs to be done to ensure it is a success.

Unless the diploma wins the hearts and minds of students, their parents and teachers, it will die a death, like so many well-intentioned initiatives in the past.

It can only succeed if employers actively support the schools taking on the qualification. It could be as simple as sending an IT director to talk to youngsters, offering work experience, or sponsoring a training day for teachers.

If the diploma fails, everyone will lose. Shortages of IT staff with the business and technology skills needed for the future will inevitably hit profits and growth, both of individual companies and of the UK as a whole.

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