Back to School to Close the Digital Skills Gap

September 02, 2019

Back to School to Close the Digital Skills Gap

The tech skills shortage crisis continues and since the future of the tech workforce depends on the next generation, we go back to school to see what the industry is doing today to bridge the digital skills gap.

As September rolls around again, summer will soon be well behind us, but winter is the least of our problems in the tech industry… unless your computer is outside of course. The skills shortage crisis continues, and it needs our attention. There are currently 17% more tech job openings than available workers in the market, and by 2020, five million positions could go unfilled, that’s a cost of $160 billion a year to the economy!

The future of the tech workforce is dependent on the next generation. We did a study in 2016 on young people’s perceptions of the tech industry. This gave us some interesting insight into what they really thought about tech, and although things have progressed, there’s still a long way to go. As the new school year is about to start, let’s have a look at what’s being done in the industry today to bridge the skills gap.

Girls into tech

One of the biggest reasons for the skills gap is still the lack of girls involved in STEM. Women still only occupy 22% of core STEM occupations in the UK, so there’s still some way to go. This disparity starts before they enter the workforce as in 2018, only 50 females studied computing at A-Level compared to 314 males. This is growing, but very slowly, as the number of females studying computing has increased from 12% to 13% this year. The CAS Females and Computing 2018 report showed that girls do not choose to study computing or ICT because they found it boring and perceived it to be too difficult. To inspire young people, and girls in particular, to get into STEM, it’s important to get them interested early before these tech stereotypes are too ingrained.

Start off early

Parents can drive the initiative to reduce the STEM stigma before they even get to school. There are several free websites that teach coding for kids. These sites have gamified coding so that kids feel like they’re playing a standard computer game whilst they learn how to code. Other companies such as LEGO, have created toy robots that kids can code themselves using a smart device. It has also introduced initiatives as part of LEGO Education Solutions to provide help in schools and early learning facilities. We think this is a great way to introduce children into coding and make it easy to understand.

Improvements in the classroom

Part of the skills shortage problem is that students aren’t going down a tech route, which ultimately means they won’t progress onto tech apprenticeships, courses or study tech subjects at university. Last year, the ICT GCSE was phased out in favour of a more specialised Computer Science course. However, this year it has resulted in 140,000 fewer students obtaining a GCSE in a technology subject.

To combat this issue, the Department for Education plans to invest £84m in the next 4 years in training 8,000 computer science teachers to try and drive up participation in the subject. Various organisations work with schools and businesses to improve education for STEM. STEM Learning is working to reverse the impact of fewer GCSE pupils taking STEM subjects and apprenticeships by training secondary school teachers on how to give careers and application advice. All About STEM aims to help all young people understand the excitement of STEM subjects and why it’s important in the outside world. Universities are also collaborating with early education institutes to make STEM topics fun and engaging. For example, Warwick University has recently supported a national STEM competition in schools.

This suggests that the way STEM subjects are taught needs to change to engage students and make it more interesting, but also show why the topic is significant in the outside world.

Reports show that future classrooms could be a lot more hands-on through using AI, experimentation and robotics. With these future developments, there’s plenty of opportunities to diversify teaching methods, for example by implementing gamification.

While you wait for the next tech-savvy generation to flood into your workforce, you’ll need to compete for what’s currently out there to hire the best tech talent. That means you need a robust tech recruitment process that is streamlined and optimised! Get in touch with us today to see how our Tungl tech assessments can help you with your technical testing and become more competitive in screening, assessing and selecting your tech talent.

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