At the Digital Catapult’s recent ‘Novel Ways to Overcome the Skills Gap‘ event in London, I took part in an interesting panel discussion comprising the following experts:

  • Maggie Philbin (CEO, Teen Tech)
  • Nick Harrison (COO, Founders4Schools)
  • Dominic Murphy (CEO, Geek Talent)
  • Gemma Crothers (DigiSkills NI)
  • David Dunn (CEO, Sunderland Software City) – Chair

The audience consisted of 40 representatives from large businesses, SMEs and educators and some of the key discussion points were as follows:

1. There should be a concerted effort to educate parents around career paths and opportunities in the digital sector. Many parents perpetuate myths and misunderstandings around the sector and their influence is the most significant on a child’s choice of career path. This means they are often encouraged to follow in their footsteps in industries that may be dead or dying instead of emerging industries where there are more opportunities on the horizon but are less visible to people outside of the sector.

(According to Maggie Philbin, stats collected live from 3,500 Year 7 and Year 8 students at TeenTech events in 2015 revealed that 43% relied most on parents for careers advice followed by 16% who trusted schools, 15% internet, 14% TV, radio and media and 12% friends, highlighting the importance of educating parents and guardians).

2. Curricula around digital should be made more flexible. This could be achieved by providing a framework of outcomes and thus allowing the content to be more agile and industry relevant. (Whilst it’s understandable that teachers and schools will predominantly follow the national curriculum, we would encourage local authorities and education trusts to build some wiggle room into their teaching schedule to enable local experts and businesses to give talks and masterclasses on skills and topics directly relevant to their industry).

3. Apprenticeship Levies should come with significant flexibility and large corporates and public sector bodies should be allowed to distribute their levy in ways that benefit their supply chain and the wider economy.

On a personal note, my top 3 wishes for the British education system are:

1. Make the most of our education budget by including skills valued by the labour market

2. Link curriculum across all levels

3. Review curriculum every year

Over the coming weeks and months we will be using our influence to encourage local authority and educational partners to explore options for the above and would welcome any other suggestions in the Comment Box below.

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