Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The “IT is for geeks” stereotype is damaging the UK economy

A decline in students taking GCSE and A-level computing, coupled with a booming technology sector, could stunt growth and damage the UK’s economy through an ever-widening skills gap.

The common misconception that “IT is for geeks” is stopping many pupils from pursuing a career within the digital industries, a report published last week by the UK Digital Skills Taskforce found.

The taskforce, announced by Ed Miliband in November last year, was set up to help close the IT skills gap found in the British workforce.

A 2013 report from 02 stated that around 745,000 additional workers with digital skills would be needed to meet demand between now and 2017.

The report - ‘Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World’ – suggests that this massive IT skills gap is due to misconceptions of the digital workplace.

The perception that technology roles are for “geeks” is extremely damaging, the report found.

A new computing curriculum is set to be introduced September 2014, which will go a long way in addressing the issue, but the report warns that teachers need more support to help them prepare.

In addition to more funding for the new curriculum, the report calls for computing to become a fourth ‘core science,’ which would give pupils access to digital training up to 19 years of age.

The ultimate aim is to eliminate the UK’s IT skills gap. However, simply adjusting the curriculum for modern tech requirements isn’t enough; pupils need to be supported after secondary school by being made aware of the options available to them.

With 98% of all universities now charging the max tuition fees of £9000 a year, hundreds of students are now unable to pursue this form of higher education. And without a clear route to a career in IT, many pupils can be left feeling adrift.

IT Apprenticeships have made a huge difference in helping to solve this issue by providing an entry-point to a career in IT.   As well as helping to lessen the UK’s crippling digital skills gap, apprenticeships provide young people with their first opportunity to grow and learn within a real workplace.

There is tremendous support for IT apprenticeships from both government and commercial organisations. The Microsoft’s Apprentice of the Year awards, held this year at the House of Commons, helped highlight the difference these schemes can make to young people and the businesses they work for. One Firebrand Apprentice even claimed a prestigious Microsoft Apprentice of the Year award.

During the awards, Theresa May described how - “Apprenticeships are incredibly important in helping young adults to develop skills in the workplace. Apprenticeships are hands-on and so much more about understanding what the working environment is all about. 

An IT apprenticeship is a great alternative to university and a tremendous advantage for businesses in need of talented young employees. Apprenticeships allow students to earn-while-they-learn, avoid student debt and get certifications backed up with real work experience in a career they are interested in.

If you’re looking for a career in IT or want to learn more about Firebrand’s unique apprenticeship program, visit us here.