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BT launches technology scholarships and primary schools IT skills programme

BT acts to close the skills gap in sponsoring a higher education technology scheme and plans to teach digital skills to primary school children

BT has announced its involvement in two initiatives to improve digital and technology skills and close the IT skills gap.

BT will invest in the Diamond Jubilee scholarship programme at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to encourage the best graduates into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers.  

It will increase its sponsorship for the Barefoot Computing programme, run by the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT – which trains teachers in how to deliver the computing curriculum – to expand the project's activities into Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to reach more schools.

“The UK's future as a technology leader hinges on young people getting the skills, support and training they need to create successful careers in science, engineering and IT,” said Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT

“There won't only be more demand for specialist tech skills; many jobs, in different sectors, will require some level of tech literacy.”

As part of its contribution to the Diamond Jubilee scholarship programme, BT will fund 75 scholarships for talented engineering and technology undergraduates, as well as providing regional mentoring programmes, work placement schemes and workshops to help scholars find employment after they graduate.

The firm then hopes this support will encourage them to apply for a career in the Stem sector, and will only select students who have gained three grade As or above at A-level.

The IET’s Scholarship Committee and a BT representative will select students for the programme, choosing 25 each year for the three-year period.

The next cohort will be announced once the university year starts in October 2015.

BT guarantees that 50% of the students chosen for the programme will be women.

Patterson said: “It is vital our most talented and brightest students are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential and realise their career ambitions. BT’s scholarship and apprenticeship schemes provide career pathways, which will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global innovation in engineering and technology.”

Imparting confidence and knowledge

BT said it will help the BCS extend the reach of its computing teaching resources programme Barefoot Computing to the whole of the UK for the September 2015 to July 2016 school year.

BT's increased sponsorship will ensure the BCS's training sceme – to help teachers deliver the computing curriculum – will be made available to 15,000 primary school teachers across the UK. BT will also work with schools to use BT technology to improve teaching and facilities.

The intention is to combat the lack of skills and confidence of some teachers in delivering computing-based lessons; and to assist the large number of schools that have invested little or no funding in training for the curriculum.

Research from BT and Pineapple Lounge found technology is often an isolated subject that is not integrated with the rest of the curriculum, and most schools do not have access to technology to support classroom learning.

“If we're to have a dynamic economy, we need a society where people understand the basics behind how tech works, and have the knowledge to create and develop it, not just consume it,” Patterson said.

“A generation of young people who are tech literate is fundamental.  Bringing computing into primary school classrooms was a landmark step, but we need to do more to enable teachers to teach it.”

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