Crisis in Numbers Studying IT at GCSE – what’s the answer?

Analysis by e-skillsUK of GCSE results this year shows that the number of students taking all ICT courses has fallen for the seventh consecutive year to just 70,418.  And this figure is a decrease of 12.5% on last year alone.

The number of students studying ICT at GCSE has been declining dramatically year-on-year from a high of 261,970 in 2005.

This continuing decline should be of great concern to universities and employers – and to everyone interested in the future competitiveness and success of the UK.

We know that demand for skilled IT professionals continues to increase, yet we are as a society failing to inspire a generation of young people to  study technology or to take up technology careers.

Something must be done!

It is for this reason that e-skills UK announced a few weeks ago that our Behind the Screen programme will be available to all schools from September 2012.

Behind the Screen offers GCSE students IT projects to tackle with interactive online materials supported by full teachers’ notes. The projects have been developed in close consultation with a number of employers, including John Lewis, and are based on a variety of real-life business issues.

Our aim is that students learn computational thinking, develop technical skills, and gain creative, team working and entrepreneurial skills – all in a fun, interesting and interactive way.  After all, students these days are the most connected and IT-enabled generation ever.

Young people who play computer games can learn to create games.

Young people who use apps every day can design apps.

Young people who use social media to connect with their friends can use social media to connect with customers.

I am very excited by the potential of Behind the Screen – but with the rapid decline of students even considering studying IT at GCSE, we have no time to lose.

Presentation to Digital London on IT Skills Crisis

Here is the presentation I gave at the Digital London Conference last week.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am grateful to the e-Skills UK team for the stats and the images.

The new National IT Skills Academy skills and training site

I would not normally plug products in my blog, but this is going to be a shameless plug, in what I believe is a very good cause…

I feel passionately that we in the UK IT industry need to continuously improve our skills and our skills training, and – very importantly – widen access to technology training and skills throughout the economy.

I have long been a supporter of e-SkillsUK, and I am privileged to be Chair of our latest venture which is the National Skills Academy for IT.  

The Academy has just launched what we hope will be a very useful site and will make a real difference in this area. This is aimed at helping individuals and SMEs in the UK, who need broad access to IT skills but at affordable prices.   

The Academy has therefore brought together IT training content from multiple sources (including globally-recognised training provider SkillSoft). This will give individuals and small businesses access to the type of high-quality IT training and resources that up to now have only been available to large corporations.

It’s basically a subscription service for over a thousand online courses from bite-sized chunks to the knowledge needed for major certifications. Mentoring, e-books, test preps and express guides are also available .  

The subscription will also provide access to resources for solving immediate problems, plus up-to-date knowledge from IT industry experts.  There will be news as well as articles, reference materials, tools and templates.  And the whole content is to be regularly refreshed to keep it current.

The Academy is providing unrestricted access to all of this content at a price of £95 for the first year. If you would like to see what’s there, please do take a look at  http://www.itskillsacademy.ac.uk/subscription   and spread the word about it.

I would be very interested in knowing what you think of this new Academy initiative. I am also keen to hear about people’s experiences of using the tools available as we go forward, so we can continue to improve it.

UK IT is a great success – let’s work to keep it that way!

More thoughts on the e-skills Manifesto  http://www.e-skills.com/About-us/2684.

The UK scores top out of 27 European countries in terms of proportion of enterprises selling online.

But to grow the UK economy and create new jobs, we need more leaders and managers who understand of the strategic implications of technology, with the skills to develop technology-enabled business strategies and the personal motivation to stay current on technological advances.

We also need to invest in a technologically professional workforce in the UK.  And we need to invest in successful industries as well as bailing out failures.

The UK technology workforce has grown through the Recession and has doubled in size since the early 1990s to provide employment for 1.1 million people in highly-skilled, high value add jobs for the UK.  The Technology and Telecomms industry in the UK generates nearly four times the average value add for the UK.

But if we don’t act now, the writing is on the wall for UK IT.   Consider these statistics:

• the gender imbalance: only 17% of Technology professionals are female

• the uptake of IT-related GCSEs and A-levels: declining dramatically since 2002 and 2003 respectively

•  the UK’s education system: not supporting industry’s need for people with hybrid business and IT capability

• the IT literacy now a pre-requisite for getting a job: 92% of new recruits are required to have skills in the use of IT

• 77% of the UK’s current workforce uses IT in their everyday jobs, and the level of skill required is increasing all the time

And these are just some of the reasons why we urgently need an IT manifesto for the UK.

The IT industry in the UK is a fantastic success story: it contributes £71 billion a year value to the UK economy, the technology workforce has doubled since the early 1990s and software has grown at an average of 9% a year over the last decade.

This is undoubtedly a growing and vibrant part of our economy. Let’s work to keep it that way!

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