IT employers are struggling to find new recruits with the skills they need because they are not being vocal enough about what they are looking for in the next generation of workers.
One of the key messages that came out of a roundtable discussion, hosted by IT solutions provider Stone Group in London, on how to bridge the gap between education and the real world, was that IT employers should form closer links with schools and tell them what they want from the young people when they enter the workforce.
Tim Riches, CEO at Digitalme, an organisation that works with teachers and employers to create a new digital currency that recognises young people’s skills, believes that one of the problems is that schools and students do not know what jobs are available in the industry and what skills they need to get those jobs. Digitalme is working to solve this problem, for example, by working with telecoms company Telefonica to create ‘badges’ of qualifications that map to the qualities that the employer is looking for.
“We need more engagement from employers. We need to say to employers: ‘what is it you actually want?’” said Riches.
Maggie Kalnins, CEO of Inclusion Trust, an organisation that pioneers models of learning combining innovative pedagogy with digital technology, agreed that employers need to take charge.
“Industry needs to force their way into schools because schools are not going to go out to find you,” she said.
Businesses are also called to offer work placements to school children, although this is challenging unless schools or companies are proactive in asking for, or offering, the opportunities.
Sue Nieland, director of education at sector skills council e-skills UK, said: “There are employers who are desperate to do stuff but often just don’t know the route. The will is there but what’s missing is that link.”
Tony Parkin, independent educational technologist, added: “The problem is we’ve got rid of all the organisations responsible for putting businesses and schools together because the money’s gone.”
IT teachers need support too
However, while there was general consensus that work placements and mentoring for students would be invaluable, Joanna Poplawska, executive director at The Corporate IT Forum, said that IT teachers would also benefit from support from business. For example, Intel, which was represented on the roundtable, delivers teacher training programmes.
“There’s a huge place for business to mentor and support teachers as well,” said Poplawska.
“It’s not always about the money. It can be about reserving time for them to learn what’s happening in IT departments.”
Stone Group, which works with local schools, admitted that this was one area it had neglected so far.
“We’ve been more focused on the students than the teachers,” said the company’s CEO Simon Harbridge.
Meanwhile, Miles Berry, principal lecturer and board member of The Computing at School, also suggested that employers can get involved in shaping the teaching of IT in schools by volunteering as school governors.
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