Schools are failing a generation by not teaching tech, says former Dragon

One in three students believe they know more about technology than their teachers. What can educators and businesses do to guide and train a jaded generation?

A quarter of school children feel uninspired to learn at school, while one in three believe they know more about technology than their teachers. Feeling alienated and without guidance, it seems that children are already looking to skills they will need for future jobs, considering careers in games creation, app development, and computer coding.

This according to research commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, a charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges. It surveyed 1000 school children between the ages of 11 to 17 on access and knowledge of the skills of the future. It revealed that over a third have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom, and over two thirds admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

Today is the deadline for councils to inform parents of the opportunity to move their 14-year-old child to a University Technical College. It is the first time, at the beginning of the school year, that councils are alerting parents of the option for children to gain a specialist technical education. But it seems that not all classrooms are keeping up with the latest technological developments which business leaders warn could put Britain at an economic disadvantage post-Brexit.

Former BBC Dragon’s Den investor, Hilary Devey CBE, believes that these skills can make or break Britain’s success in the global economy post-Brexit, which makes access to vocational and technical education all the more timely. “Helping young people gain the technical skills they need to give Britain a competitive advantage in post-Brexit Britain is vital to the long-term growth of our economy. Technology is at the heart of my business and I know how important it is to keep ahead of competition by using the latest technological developments,” she said.

“However, finding young people who have the relevant skills levels is a huge challenge. A technical education, like that provided by UTCs, which starts at 14 and gives young people more time to develop these skills, makes sense to me,’ the CEO of Pall-Ex added.

When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

  • Building apps (45 per cent)
  • Creating games (43 per cent)
  • Virtual reality (38 per cent)
  • Coding computer languages (34 per cent)
  • Artificial intelligence (28 per cent)

UTCs are backed by employers and universities, and have been set up to ensure young people have the technical skills employers desperately need in science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM). However, additional research by Baker Dearing reveals that seven in 10 children do not know that they can move school at the age of 14 to join a UTC. It is hoped that the letters being sent by local councils will increase young peoples’ and their parents’ awareness of the opportunities available.

“Changing school at 14 means young people interested in technical careers such as computing, robotics, engineering or cyber security, can get ahead. We must harness this young talent if we are to meet the challenges of Brexit and a world that is undergoing rapid, and continual, technological change,” Charles Parker, CEO of Baker Dearing Educational Trust said. “We welcome the letters being sent out by councils which mark a significant change in how technical skills are being promoted across the country. UTCs ensure young people have the skills they need to compete in the job market and our students secure excellent apprenticeships and places at university. We need to ensure parents and young people know about them.”

More than 500 employers support UTCs including Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Network Rail, Jaguar Land Rover and Microsoft, as well as small and medium sized businesses. Together with nearly 50 universities, they contribute their knowledge as well as offering opportunities to experience the world of work. There are currently 49 UTCs across the UK.

“Technology is forcing our industries to evolve at a rapid pace, shaping the way we live and work. Our “Fit for Digital” research revealed that 40 per cent of business leaders are concerned about skill shortages, and in tandem the current skills gap in the UK and Ireland begs concern for the next generation of school leavers who are at risk of being ill equipped for the industries they’ll soon find themselves competing to enter,” Ash Merchant, director of education at Fujitsu said. “=School leavers now need to demonstrate new skill sets; from a familiarity with cyber-security to the ability to see the value in big data, young people are increasingly being asked to showcase examples of real world experience to gain entrance to the working world.”

As employers and members of the technology community, Merchant stressed the importance of collaborating with educators to make sure the students of today are prepared for the digital world of tomorrow. “Work experience programmes are central to that,” he added. “At Fujitsu, we’ve set up 22 ambassador hubs throughout the country to help give students hands-on training, vital technical skills and, most importantly, the confidence that will prepare them for successful careers in the tech sector. Quite simply, the way we educate must change because the needs and skills required of young people have changed, and it’s through collaboration that we will we assure the future of our industries.”

UTCs are set up where employers and the local university identify that there are pronounced skills gaps. UTCs teach one or more technical specialisms that meet the skills shortages in the region. These include: artificial intelligence; aviation design; engineering; robotics; computer science; health sciences; product design; and digital technologies.

Last year, 44 per cent of students leaving UTCs at age 18 went to university and 29 per cent started apprenticeships. Only 5 students were NEET (not in education, employment, or training).

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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