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Pity the little children? Where in the world will the next generation of IT talent come from?

Pity the little children? Where in the world will the next generation of IT talent come from?

Posted on 27th January 2020

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different jobs cartoonMy colleagues, notably our Chief Exec Gareth and MD Nik, have written extensively about the poor take-up of STEM subjects in the education system in this country and the problems this creates for digital and IT employers.  However, it’s not a problem that is readily or quickly resolved, as was brought home vividly to me by the most recent PISA study of 15 year-olds in 79 countries/regions, reported in The Times last week. 

As Andreas Schleicher, director of OECD education says: “The surveys show that too many teenagers are ignoring, or are unaware of, new types of jobs that are emerging, particularly as a result of digitalisation.”

More specifically, across the world, teenagers still aspire to “traditional” jobs – teachers, lawyers, etc.  Now there is nothing wrong with that, but, as we all know, we need more scientists and engineers, more IT techies and more entrepreneurs. Yet despite the huge effort that has gone into trying to cajole more boys and girls into STEM, not a lot has really changed, especially for the girls. The PISA lists of top 10 desired careers for boys and girls show this clearly…


Top 10 occupations cited by boys in 2018:

Top 10 occupations cited by girls in 2018:








Business manager




Business manager


ICT professional




Nursing and midwife





Police officer



Motor vehicle mechanic




Police officer




At least ICT does feature, just not on the girls list. 

Equally alarming are the key findings from the PISA report from across the world.  As you can hear and see on this YouTube video, they are scary. but to my mind there were a number of key facts that stood out: namely, that, worldwide, over 10 million students from the PISA assessment could not even complete the most basic reading tasks, while 10% couldn’t distinguish between fact and opinion.  Then there is the finding that seven times more boys than girls want to work in IT. Most worrying, and something that reflects what we’ve been writing about for the last six years, there has been no real improvement in learning outcomes in the past decade in the OECD area.  

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. The countries which are ahead of the game in STEM education are, in my opinion, also those which are most likely to do well economically (e.g. China, Singapore, etc.).  More to the point, as the UK attempts to embrace the worldwide markets it needs post-Brexit, the Australian-type immigration policies currently being mooted by our government will need to be carefully crafted to help our entrepreneurs (to say nothing of us poor recruiters!) find the talent we need in this country. The PISA surveys help point to where these people may be found. Whether they will want to come to work in the UK remains to be seen…

Paul Strachan, Expert Team

P.S.  If you want to read the full report from the OECD, it’s here



Posted in Recruitment News

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