pressmaster - Fotolia

Young tech entrepreneurs take advantage into the future, says Duke of York

Entrepreneurs involved with technology from a young age will have the advantage when the world shifts in that direction in the future, says the Duke of York

People who have discovered entrepreneurial technology talent at a young age will have an advantage in the future, said the Duke of York.

While presenting winners of the 2015 TeenTech Awards with their certificates, the Duke of York claimed those who had won should continue to pursue technology in the future, and should never take “no” for an answer.

“Ideas are what are going to change the way that we see the next generation,” said the Duke.

“Which means you have a distinct advantage by having taken part in something like TeenTech, because you’re already ahead of the curve.”

The TeenTech Awards, run by Maggie Philbin, are designed to inspire and support young people who have science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) ideas, and encourage them to pursue a Stem career in the future.

Students from the ages of 11 to 16 were challenged to develop solutions to real-world problems while working in groups of up to three people.

The award winners for the 2015 TeenTech awards were encouraged by the Duke of York, who is an advocate of skills and innovation, to continue to have ideas and act on them.

“Because you have taken part in TeenTech, because you have ideas, don’t be frightened of continuing to have ideas. ‘No’ is too easy an answer when you come up with an idea,” the Duke said.

He hailed the schools taking part in the competition for having an “enabling culture” and addressed the teachers as well as the students when encouraging them not to shut down any ideas they have in the future.

“The more of that for young people the better,” he said.

The IT industry is suffering from a skills gap whereby many people currently graduating to not have the skills to fill available job roles, and the industry has urged the government to do more to convince young people to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

“Between 40-50% of the jobs that are out there today, they will be disrupted by new tech that we haven’t invented yet,” the Duke claimed.

“The speed with which we replace things is only going to increase.”

The winners

The awards ceremony showcased the 19 winning teams, who were all given a chance to explain what their projects did and their motivations for building the systems.

The categories included areas such as retail and finance, health, future of food, transport, energy and infrastructure.

Read more about IT skills and education

  • BT acts to close the skills gap in sponsoring a higher education technology scheme and plans to teach digital skills to primary school children.
  • Public sector IT leaders say the people they have are appropriately skilled, but there is not enough staff in public sector organisations to get things done.

Among the winning projects were a robotic wheelchair with a built-in sensor to allow it to follow coloured lines on the floor, a smart-metered water tap for use in underdeveloped countries and photosensitive glasses for epilepsy sufferers to filter out fit-inducing images.

A number of the projects have already seen interest from external companies.

Although a few of the teams were mixed, many of the teams comprised all-boy or all-girl groups, and there were as many girls in the room as boys.

Perceptions of Stem

There are many theories surrounding why more people, women particularly, are not entering Stem-based careers.

The Duke of York said people still have a perception of scientists that involve white lab coats and old men with white hair.

“Actually the reality is that they aren’t that much older than you. They are young, they are dynamic and they make their discoveries in their 20s or 30s, not when they are old,” the Duke said.

“The real work of a scientist is done much earlier.”

Girls especially are put off technology and science-based careers, as they have the misconception that a career in Stem would be “too hard” for them.

“You are just about to come into the prime of your creative time, be it in engineering, be it in digital, be in any subject you are looking at,” the Duke said.

“You’re already thinking about what is going to be needed to make this world a better place.”

A British problem

Currently the technology industry in the UK is very male-dominated, with a lack of diversity at most levels, but the Duke claimed the industry should reflect the diversity across the UK.

“We live in a society today, we live in a country today, which is multi-ethnic, mutli-cultural and diverse in so many different ways,” the Duke said.

“I don’t think we should place any barriers in the way of these young people having that opportunity.”

The startup scene is leading the way for diversity in the UK IT industry, and having different types of people in the workplace is helping these small firms to innovate.

“The more the merrier, the more young people who have an enabling culture in their school, which is ‘yes have a go’, that’s what I’d like to see.”

But according to the Duke, across Europe the lack of women in technology is not as prominent as in the UK. He said the lack of women in UK tech is a “peculiarly British problem”.

“Whether that’s because we breed a different type of engineer here or not I don’t know, but it means we’ve got to break some barriers down which this country is amazingly good at. Now we know there’s a barrier we can see, what we can do to bring it down so that more women can go into engineering, and engineering is probably one of the widest fields of endeavour, it doesn’t mean getting your hands dirty all the time,” he said.

This is one of the reasons TeenTech founder Maggie Philbin started the awards, and Philbin hoped the programme will prove both to children and teachers the importance of technology and creative talent for young people.

“We know there’s a huge amount of young talent all over the UK but teenagers are not always clear about the skills they need to succeed, and events like today’s has proved that our exam system needs to embrace this creative talent and encourage even more life-changing inventions of tomorrow,” TeenTech’s founder and CEO, Maggie Philbin explained.

“By taking their ideas out of the classroom and putting them face-to-face with industry professionals, we’ve been able to change the way young people think about these subjects and help to open their eyes to the real potential of their ideas.”

TeenTech 2015 winners

  • Retail and Finance - Notre Dame School, Greenock;
  • International Collaboration - The King Edward VI School;
  • Future of Food - Birkdale School;
  • Research and Information Literacy – Birkdale School;
  • Health - Isaac Newton Academy;
  • Safety and Security - Sandbach High School;
  • Energy - The Costello School;
  • Digital Skills – Loreto Grammar School;
  • Transport – Ysgol Glan-y-Mor;
  • Manufacturing - Tunbridge Wells Grammar School;
  • Environment - Tunbridge Wells Grammar School;
  • Design and Construction - The Hayfield School;
  • Music, Media and Entertainment - Okehampton College;
  • Infrastructure - Park House School;
  • Wearable Technology - Loreto Grammar School;
  • Consumer Product of the Year - James Allen’s Girls’ School;
  • Education – Birkdale School;
  • Teacher of the Year Award - Loughborough Grammar and High School;
  • People’s Choice - Alton Convent School;
  • Samsung slogan for 2016 - Millburn Academy.

Read more on IT technical skills