Make or break time for digital education?
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Make or break time for digital education?

Make or break time for digital education?

Posted on 23rd February 2015

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We have heard it before, ad nauseam. The country is failing to address the shortage of digital skills.  We see it in our work.  I’m writing about it now (and am going to return to the subject in more detail in future blogs), yet nothing seems to be happening.  Well, not quite nothing, but it’s not enough.

Don’t believe me?  It’s just an IT recruiter justifying his existence?  Well perhaps you’ll believe a group of people not normally thought of as having an axe to grind in this area.

The House of Lords Digital Skills Committee has just published a major report, called, starkly, “Make of Break: The UK’s Digital Future.”

The first three paragraphs of their summary say it better than I ever could:

This report is a call to action for the incoming Government in May 2015.

The world is being transformed by a series of profound technological changes dominated by digital—a ‘second machine age’. This is already having a significant impact on the UK; over the next two decades some economists have estimated that 35% of current jobs in the UK could become automated. Digital technology is changing all our lives, work, society and politics. It brings with it huge opportunities for the UK, but also significant risks.

This demands an ambitious approach which will secure the UK’s position as a digital leader. We recommend that the new Government establishes a single and cohesive Digital Agenda.

There is a huge amount in this report. The House of Lords may, for some, be considered a home for pensioned-off politicians, but anyone who has watched its debates knows that it conducts itself far better, and has an far greater range of genuinely specialist knowledge, than the House of Commons. It demonstrates this impressively here. However, I want to concentrate on just one of their conclusions.  The report says that ‘digital literacy’ must become a core subject at school. In the same way we automatically assume that English and Maths are the bedrocks of a sound education, digital knowledge must become equally important and the internet should be regarded as a vital utility to which everyone has access.

In particular, the committee, whilst welcoming the new computing curriculum expressed its concerns over the ability of teachers to teach it.  And it’s not just the teachers’ confidence; it’s the lack of suitably qualified teachers that is a problem. 

It is all well Be-IT and other recruitment companies bemoaning the lack of good candidates.  We all know there is a shortage.  In the short term it makes our lives both more interesting and challenging but also more difficult.  Yet if we are not just in this for the money (important though that is – we have bills to pay too!), we need to demonstrate that, as recruiters, we see the bigger picture and are actively talking, demonstrating, remonstrating and shouting from the rooftops that the industry in which we work MUST do far more if the country is to cope with the “profound technological changes” highlighted in the second paragraph from the Lords’ summary above. 

This starts in the schools.  And to illustrate just how bad things are, my next blog will look in more depth at the problems of digital education in our schools.  You have been warned!

Gareth Biggerstaff, MD, Be-IT Resourcing

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