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Taking education digital – where does
the responsibility lie? By Ash Merchant

Education is going digital, and the announcement of the Government’s investment in T-Level qualifications in last month’s budget is a reflection of that new focus. However, a report by the National Audit Office in December predicted a possible £3bn cut in school budgets, meaning schools must reduce spending by as much as 8% per pupil by 2020. This, coupled with a widening skills gap, begs concern for public school leavers who are at risk of not having the digital skills that are becoming so crucial to the UK economy.

Bridging the skills gap means giving this generation of school leavers access to the technology that is, in many cases, already defining their lives.

Mind the skills gap

Bridging the skills gap means giving this generation of school leavers access to the technology that is, in many cases, already defining their lives.

Last month we saw Theresa May put the expansion of vocational education at the heart of her new proactive industrial strategy.

As well as announcing £170m of funding to boost technical education, she also signalled her willingness to work in partnership with the private sector.

Schools are increasingly collaborating with industry partners to bring technology into the learning experience, and provide learning that is practical and brings a sense
of realism to subjects that can be difficult to comprehend.

Collaborating with industry

We’ve been working with schools and the wider education community for some time now and have seen the incredible benefits of investing in building digital skills.

Last year, for example, we tasked students from our Education Ambassador establishments to create a way to solve a real-world problem using IoT technology in our Operation Innovation competition.

The enthusiasm we saw throughout each heat was a clear indicator of the thirst young people have for technology. It enabled us to recognise our ability to offer students the chance to develop the professional and interpersonal skills that are essential to our business.

What’s more, it taught us that as a responsible business, we have a role to play in helping to develop relevant digital skills for young people.

Building the workforce of the future

From an industry perspective, we cannot expect oven-ready people straight out of education.

Unless we are willing to invest in schools, there are no guarantees schools leavers will be equipped to support the future demands of our businesses.

What we need is to encourage collaborations between industry and educational institutions so students can feel supported in their development of STEM skills
and ensure they’re getting the real world experience that is fast becoming a requirement.

This was part of the reasoning behind our recent endorsement of the OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma in IT, amongst other projects.

We know that students of this generation are digital natives, but to get them ready for the world of work we need to take responsibility as an industry. Only then can we guarantee students will be able to fulfil the digital future we’ve created for them.

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