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Supporting UK digital talent from the

beginning Comment by ROSS FRASER, VP and MD at EMC UK&I

Earlier this month, the Government’s Science and Technology Committee announced that the UK is facing a digital skills crisis. 90 percent of jobs today need digital skills to some degree, and, by 2017, the UK will need 745,000 workers with digital skills. Yet these are currently lacking in 12.6 million adults. Immediate action is being urged by the Committee to equip

businesses with the talent necessary for the UK to retain its position as a tech leader, and prevent damage to the UK’s position against other markets. EMC believe nurturing talent before employees enter the workforce will be key to this. I recently spoke to techUK’s Charlotte Holloway, who emphasised that

graduates are entering the workforce requiring rapid training to make them “business ready”. Despite the perception that the UK is a leader in terms of the National Computing Curriculum and IT, the Government’s report revealed inadequacy in both physical and mental resources. 22 percent of IT equipment in schools is ineffective, while just 35 percent of computing science teachers have a relevant qualification. In order for students to remain at the forefront of innovation it is essential that the government invests in technology in school and education establishments upskill teachers in STEM subjects. In my experience, identifying where the talent gaps lie, and allowing them to be targeted through education, is best achieved via collaboration between industry and educational bodies. The partnership between EMC and business accelerator programme Entrepreneurial Spark was established to do just this. It provides free, nationwide training, coaching and mentorship to thousands of entrepreneurs, giving them the tools to get their ideas off the ground. Replicating this and other programmes to encourage practical skills for the tech industry is crucial for future success. Looking specifically at gender, there is a significant disparity between

the number of men and women engaged in STEM subjects. 83 percent of computer sciences students are males, while only 15 percent of those studying Engineering are women. This gender imbalance translates to the workforce with only 9 percent of the UK’s engineering workforce being female. This is a significant business problem, as the lack of women with STEM skills is exacerbating the already acute talent shortage. Collaboration is required between educational bodies, the Government and companies to address and resolve why fewer females are choosing STEM careers. Businesses need digitally educated employees in order to navigate

opportunities and threats in their market. Our recent “The Great Skills Exodus” report revealed that 88 percent agree that the growth/success of the organisation is fundamentally reliant on technology. Although this can be achieved through continuous investment in the development of digital expertise, these skills need to be introduced and matured in education, before working life. Currently, companies such as Skyscape Cloud Services are struggling to fill 50 percent of available positions due to concerns over hiring the wrong people. Ensuring applicants have had the relevant qualifiers built into their education will help resolve this. To my mind, educational bodies, the Government and UK businesses

all have a role to play in ensuring school leavers and graduates enter the workforce with the skills needed to drive future innovation and success. Only by doing so can we relieve the current £63 billion cost to the UK economy of the digital skills crisis, and ensure the UK remains a tech leader.


Collaboration key to modern apprenticeship

success Comment by ADRIAN RINGROSE, Chief Executive, Interserve plc

In June we launched our second Interserve Society Report, which examined how well modern apprenticeships are currently understood and the challenges there might be to embedding them as a genuine alternative to conventional academic pathways. As a business which believes that apprenticeships offer an attractive alternative to academic routes into the world of work, the report made uncomfortable reading on the whole. The Government has committed to delivering three million high

quality apprenticeships by 2020 and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 has added more impetus to the issue. This report allows us to understand more clearly the scale of the challenge. We commissioned YouGov to research attitudes among key groups.

In summary, parents, young people leaving school and employers tended to favour university as a route to a successful career, or university graduates over and above an apprentice when hiring new recruits. The extent to which these attitudes hold sway amongst the three groups and dominate current perceptions is surprising. For example, only 7% of young people aged 13-18 surveyed expected to take up an apprenticeship when they left school. This figure was even lower in London at just 2%. As a whole, the study points to a North-South divide in the attitudes

of young people and employers towards apprenticeships. Both groups in the South of England are much more favourable towards a university degree over work-based learning. In the North of England, young people have a more positive view of apprenticeships, but a majority still prefer academic pathways. All three groups had a minimal understanding of apprenticeships and

the different types available (such as degree and higher level apprenticeships). Given that some of these choices are relatively new, that may not be surprising and it is true that, when given more information on the options available, each group reacted far more favourably towards apprenticeships. This highlights the importance of educating people and businesses in the range of careers and quality of attainment levels that can be achieved through apprenticeships. Small and medium-sized enterprises lag behind larger companies in

awareness of apprenticeships. This is something that needs to be addressed if the target of reaching three million high quality apprentices by 2020 is to be achieved. I believe the research highlights that there is still much to be done to

shift attitudes, but there is an appetite for the practical work-based skills an apprenticeship can deliver. That’s why our report calls for a concerted campaign to raise awareness, which is a consistent theme throughout. Large businesses need to do more: working more proactively with schools, being more vocal about how apprenticeships can lead to the top and putting apprenticeships firmly in place alongside other pathways as legitimate routes to real career progression. Once young people, parents and employers are more fully aware of

the benefits of apprenticeships attitudes will shift, and more people will see apprenticeships as a viable option alongside more traditional academic pathways to career development. We would encourage all those with an interest in education and skills to take a look at the report and work with us to focus attention on this issue, so that we can start making real progress in the months and years ahead. To read the Interserve Society Report: Apprenticeships: the path to

success? go to List/research/apprenticeships-the-path-to-success.pdf

July/August 2016

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