Skills minister visits school's TechFuture Girls club

Nick Boles visits Tech Partnership girls club as report reveals that only 17% of workers in the technology industry are female

Skills minister Nick Boles has visited St Vincent de Paul RC primary school in Westminster to see how Tech Partnership’s TechFuture Girls clubs are encouraging more females to consider a career in technology.

On the same day he visited the school, Tech Partnership release a report that showed only 17% of people in tech specialist roles across all industries are women, while women make up 46% of the entire UK workforce. The figure drops to 13% for those working specifically in the tech sector.

During Boles' visit, the pupils at St Vincent de Paul school were working on a coding activity led by volunteers from the John Lewis Partnership. They were tasked with using algorithms to describe how they made their breakfast.

TechFuture Girls clubs are run free of charge and are available to all UK schools, with support from the likes of HP, BT, National Grid and Oracle. Since it was launched in 2005, the organisation claims to have supported more than 150,000 girls, offering a mix of activities, games and projects.

Boles said: “Today I have seen first-hand how the TechFuture Girls club at St Vincent de Paul primary school is working directly with employers to inspire girls to become coders and programmers.

“The digital economy is creating growth, prosperity and jobs across the UK. In such a fast-paced industry, companies need to innovate to be at the cutting edge of new technologies, and a diverse workforce is key to this. That is why we have unveiled plans for a new national college for digital skills to provide the right skills and a route into digital careers for those inspired by projects like TechFuture Girls club.”

The Tech Partnership report pointed out that the tech sector contributes £91bn a year to the UK economy, which is 6% of the total gross value added (GVA) and 10% up year on year.

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The GVA per person working in the tech industry was shown to be £91,800 in 2013, compared with £51,300 for the average UK worker.

Jacqui Ferguson, senior vice-president, UK and Ireland, at HP Enterprise Services, said the research underlines how central technology is to the success of the economy. She said employers in all sectors are collaborating through the Tech Partnership to support the growing need for tech skills.

“A career in technology is really exciting and it is vital that we get more people interested and increase diversity, which is why we are investing in TechFuture Girls clubs as well as other training initiatives and programmes,” she said.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: “We are a growing omnichannel business, with our partners and customers being exposed to new kinds of technology almost every day, whether it be in shops, online or mobile. So we are delighted to work with our local school to inspire girls to consider careers in technology.”

Anne Fothergill, deputy head of St Vincent de Paul school, said: “Techfuture Girls makes a real difference to the girls that are part of it. Getting to work closely with the volunteers each week boosts their confidence and the activities help build their skills across a whole range of subjects, from maths and IT to English.”

According to the Tech Partnership report, more than 71,000 new tech specialist positions were filled in 2014 and tech specialists are more likely to be employed full time (94%) compared with the UK workforce as a whole (73%).

Margaret Sambell, director of strategy for the Tech Partnership, said: “The continued success of the tech industry could be constrained if employers cannot find the skilled people they need, so addressing the gender imbalance is key to securing a talent pipeline for the future.

“Tech Partnership employers are working to ensure that more girls choose tech subjects as part of their education, and are inspired by the bright future a career in tech can create for them.”

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