2018 a 'critical year' for tech education

Article date: Wed, 24 Jan 2018 10:51 GMT

2018 is a ‘critical year’ for delivering a technology revolution across the UK’s education sector, according to a panel of experts gathered to examine emerging tech trends at an event at hosting firm UKFast.

While augmented reality, healthcare tech, machine learning and developments in cybersecurity all received airtime, it was tech education that stole the limelight, with experts calling for a further acceleration in efforts to deliver work-ready digital skills and to meet the gender imbalance across digital and tech careers.

The panel included Paul Lee, Global Head of Research for TMT at Deloitte; Amanda Newman, former IT Manager at Shell and now Founder of The Career Mum; Kelly White, Managing Director of Red Cow Media and Gill Escolme, Technical Project Manager at UKFast Public Sector.

Amanda Newman said: “The kids are ready for the technology but a lot of it comes down to budgets. Coding in many schools is not available as an A-Level because they can't get coders to come in and teach. If we are able to overcome these hurdles so that kids are work-ready and prepared for business then it would be a huge boost.”

In order for the UK to fully realise its economic potential it must take steps to deliver a larger workforce with the skills required for the digital age. With just 18% of UK technical roles currently occupied by women, the gender gap is seen as a key area of focus for unlocking untapped digital talent.

Gill Escolme of UKFast said: “We go into schools and run code clubs for seven to eleven year olds and at that stage there are equal numbers of girls and boys excited about coding. But we see that when they get to secondary school there is still a stigma surrounding tech which sees 12- and 13-year-old girls move away from coding.

“Girls don't always have positive role models to aspire to be like in that environment, so we’re trying to connect them to as many amazing women in tech as we possibly can. It’s a critical moment for the skills gap and we’re never going to make the progress we need to make if we don’t address the gender imbalance.

“We need to look closer at why technology careers are currently less appealing to young women. Our next step is to gather more data and start to tailor the subject to new people.”  

Paul Lee of Deloitte added: “A college we work with in London, Ada College of Education for sixth formers, has a purely tech-based curriculum. We’re trying to deliver a balanced gender split for the school at the moment and, although we’re making steps in the right direction, it’s currently male. The objective is to close that gender balance and to get them ready so that they can go into technology companies.”

The shortage of women in tech roles is just one factor in the skills gap overall. Experts argue that greater use of technology in education could be part of the solution.

Gill Escolme said: “We’re seeing a real drive towards cloud computing environments in education. We see schools and trusts who want to start knowledge sharing and embracing all the technologies that are available to them, before they start to fall behind in this area.”

UKFast has developed educational partnerships as part of its mission to promote innovation and reach out to a new generation of digital superstars. Working with 50 schools and colleges, including a partnership with Manchester High School for Girls, the firm reaches 57,000 young people in Greater Manchester. UKFast’s team of full-time teachers run masterclasses, workshops and code clubs and deliver an award-winning technical apprenticeship scheme.


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