Big IT companies should give teaching support to schools

t has just been announced that graduate unemployment in the UK is greater than 20%. Unemployed young adults are a bad thing, a fact which requires no elaboration to appreciate its seriousness. Previously, I suggested in a post that we create a...


t has just been announced that graduate unemployment in the UK is greater than 20%.

Unemployed young adults are a bad thing, a fact which requires no elaboration to appreciate its seriousness. Previously, I suggested in a post that we create a pre-uni MBA to help solve the problem: ‘Jaundiced but droll’ Tweeted my editor as he kindly drummed up readership.

‘Jaundiced but Droll’ indeed...but such terms can be an accurate summary of my blogs. Some deeply ingrained perversity compels me to avoid ‘worthy sincerity’ in favour of the flippant and facetious.

Indeed the more serious the issue, the more likely will I be to satirise and soto voce the important bits... then provocatively overstate the irrelevant: had I been Cassandra I would have had only myself to blame. So here follows an attempt not to be flip.

The serious point from the previous post was to highlight that the 16-19 education slot provides a unique opportunity for young adults to add value to their prospects rather than function as
a stepping stone to a useless over-sold university course. Hence I posited a ‘pre-uni MBA’ consisting of ICT, Business Studies, Statistics and Accounting.

In these times if you want to get work as a young adult you necessarily have to be perceived as adding value to your potential employer by virtue of your skills, costs and ... importantly ... your youth. Here’s the rub, for whatever reason, banking debacles or something, the shine has gone off ‘youth as a workplace virtue’ worse still the ‘work for free’ culture of the internship scam further devalues graduate worth (viz the old FOSS problem ‘if its free it can’t be any good).

I think the current situation arises from the squandering of post 16 education. My assertion is that currently we waste this golden time with an over emphasis on weakly challenging academic qualifications (trying to avoid the phrase ‘dumbed down’) whose chickens come home to roost only after graduation when the party fizzles out.

This post is then (again) about filling the 16-19 group with more value; this time it concerns Computing rather than ICT.

Sixteen to nineteen -  a golden time

Good point 1: The 16-19 education slot at school is still free … that is your taxes have paid for it and you don’t have to pay additional tuition fees.

Good Point 2: You are old enough to do all ‘grown up activities’, mental, social and physical but not old enough to yet be burdened by their consequences (debt and responsibility).

Good Point 3: You are living at home, hopefully being fed by a parent so have a lot of unallocated time.

Not at all coincidently, in my experience, this is THE time when our future computer programmers, web designers and IT entrepreneurs cut their teeth with self-taught skills.

Self-taught is the key phrase. What about school-taught?

I know Computing A Level well. Simply put, if the student is not already programming they will find it difficult and fail. If the student is already programming they will find a diet of Microsoft’s VB insulting.

I have found, and this is only drawing on approximately six schools and colleges that offer Computing and of which I have direct experience, that the tutors are not really up to date neither are the syllabuses. That’s not a surprise and realistically is inevitable, middle-aged journeymen tutors are not au fait with Android ‘void on destroy’ calls and possibly we should not expect them to be after all their counterparts in (say) Chemistry rely on a framework that is at least a hundred years old.

Nevertheless it renders the courses near useless to the student and widely ignored by Universities. Thus I propose that super-competent companies like, IBM, Microsoft, Logica, Siemens and Ubuntu join our new Big Society in a very specific way.

Schools all have broadband and virtually every class-room has a large screen attached to a data projector. This means that huge numbers of students can be reached via video cams.

If the Indian company Tutor-Vista (worth £80 million to Pearsons) can give their people access to high quality maths tutors in this way, then why not computer tutors from cutting edge IT companies?

I am not proposing expensive day-release of key workers to teach kids. Just an hour next to a webcam would do. Wouldn’t it be good to see a consortium of businesses create the kind of course that would serve both themselves and our students?

MacDonalds’ now famed A Level is no longer a joke, and I’m not kidding you. Business needs more than ever to get involved with education and none more than IT. Get in there folks, teach directly, don’t hand it over to ‘educationalists’ you are educationalists.

I mean, for example, we could have from a Microsoft engineer, ‘avoiding run-away threads causing buffer overflow errors’ or ‘how to use patents to crush innovation’ from a leading database company or even “ how to produce an Open Source GUI that can be used by humans that wash”

... rats! I was doing so well up to now.

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