London to get £5 million for digital skills

The government has agreed to invest £5 million to help improve digital skills among young people in London.

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The government has agreed to invest £5 million to help improve digital skills among young people in London.

The money will be used to support a pilot into how London’s ICT education capacity could be boosted at a systemic level. London will also receive £110 million to support capital investment in further education, with digital and technology careers a particular area of focus.

Improving home-grown IT skills

Speaking to ComputerworldUK, Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse said: “This announcement is great for us. Technology is an area we feel is very important for future skills. And there will be a big injection of capital for further education.

“This money will help to solve the problem with digital skills whereby London’s economy is sucking in talent from around the globe - which is great - but it would be better if more of that talent could be home-grown.

“This programme will support initiatives such as taking young people and teaching them to code, so in three to six months they can become an apprentice programmer. Because that is where we have the skills shortage - among programmers, coders and developers.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said he would also like to see the money used to root out young people who aren’t necessarily succeeding academically but have potential in the digital and technology sectors.

Speaking to ComputerworldUK, he said: “We’re making money available to the local economic partnership here to invest in future digital skills. And that will be in a lot of different ways. It could be supporting FE [further education] colleges.

“But also I think there’s a big opportunity to go into schools and find young people who’ve got a gift for this world, who aren’t necessarily succeeding academically but for whom this can be a real route to success. Because we tend to be very focused on academic stuff in this country, we may quite often miss them.”

Regional funding

The money is part of a £6 billion government fund announced today, £151 million of which will go to projects in London.

The biggest beneficiary of the £6 billion pot of regional funding is Greater Manchester which will receive £170 million, followed by the north east which will be given £112 million, with the south east and Lancashire to get £84 million apiece.  

The fund will be used to invest in local economies across the UK to help train young people, create jobs, build new homes and start infrastructure projects including superfast broadband.

The government expects to invest a further £6 billion once future negotiations on the next round of ‘growth deals’ are complete.

Coding on the curriculum

Maude also said that the inclusion of coding on the school curriculum, due to come into effect in September this year, will help to boost the digital skills agenda.

He said: “When my children were going through school, IT lessons were all about how do you use IT, not how do you actually build it. But it [coding] is like learning to read and write these days. To expose children at school to actually coding - writing code, what does it mean - I think is a fantastic thing and greatly to Michael Gove’s credit that he introduced it.”

Office space

Maude also had warm words for Central Working, a club that supports start-ups, during a tour of its Whitechapel branch, and especially welcomed the large numbers of women building businesses at the working space.

He said: “There are some great companies - start-ups - here and they are functioning, making money, creating jobs. And it’s great to see an environment, which is slightly untypical for the digital sector, with many more women than you would normally expect.

“It tends to be very male dominated so that’s a very good thing. It provides role models, it shows actually that there’s a real opportunity for lots of young women to get stuck into the digital field.”

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