Digital skills gap: preparing a generation for the modern workplace

Technology has evolved at an extremely rapid rate. Thirty years ago, the World Wide Web did not exist. But now traditional industries have been uprooted by innovative and disruptive technology.

In fact, everything from the way we socialise and purchase goods to how we educate students has been affected by technological advancements.

However, as technology has improved, the educated system has struggled to keep apace. While the school curriculum now includes courses in IT and programming, this is only a fairly recent development and technology has largely outstripped the average person, resulting in a digital skills gap.

More than 12.6 million UK adults lack the basic digital skills required for modern-day business, while a quarter of all developers in the UK are self-taught with no university education.

These are worrying statistics. As with all career paths, the classroom is the starting block and it is there where the digital skills gap will be reduced.

But a government report revealed that 22% of IT equipment in schools is ineffective, while only 35% of IT teachers have a relevant qualification for the subject. Clearly these figures have to be improved if the next workforce is to be empowered with the digital skills they need.

>See also: Solving the developer shortage: is the digital skills gap a myth?

There is certainly merit in adult learning and workplace schemes, but instilling the necessary skills to be digitally savvy will undoubtedly produce the best results if tackled at an earlier age.

With this in mind, here are three factors schools need to consider in order to bridge the skills gap.

1. Coding and devices

Firstly, in regards to IT and computing in schools, there have been positive steps that have promoted digital progress. The curriculum now has a more substantial focus on STEM subjects as well as computer science. Alongside this, innovations such as the BBC’s micro:bit are encouraging coding in younger generations.

However, more still needs to be done. In order to improve the situation, a greater number of devices need to be introduced into schools, and the majority of work migrated on to the cloud, to be completed via a tablet or laptop. Otherwise, the way in which students work in school will not be a true reflection of how the modern office operates.

Children need a strong grasp of the basics, including how to handle different devices and primary computing skills, or they will stumble at the first hurdle in the working world.

Of course, providing a device for every student is an expensive endeavour and often doesn’t match up with school budgets. With this in mind, organisations can also look into BYOD policies, which are already common practice in the workplace, allowing the majority of students to work from their own iPads, tablets or laptops – cementing truly transferable skills.

2. Practical necessities

Schools, colleges and universities also need to have the necessary infrastructure to support an increased focus on computing, IT and technology.

As organisations reduce the ratio between students and devices, they need to ensure that their technology infrastructure can support a tech-heavy curriculum. Schools, colleges and universities will be housing dozens – if not hundreds of devices – and they need storage solutions that can cope with accommodating them all.  

>See also: Mind the gap: future proofing your IT team’s talent and digital skills

To ensure storage is fit for purpose, organisations can assess a number of questions. Can it store the number of devices you need it to? Can it charge a selection of different devices? Does it have a weight limit? And can it scale as more and more devices are introduced and the student-device ratio decreases?

If a solution cannot store the amount of devices needed, charge and sync correctly or scale in the future, it needs to be updated.

Factors such as storage are often overlooked, however, if organisations find they can’t store, sync and charge an increasing number of devices – then it will soon stall digital progress as it can fundamentally disrupt learning.  

3. Preparation is key

Outside of the physical preparations, schools also need to play a bigger role in providing a greater understanding of a student’s working future.

Providing devices and lessons in practical digital skills is an important and necessary step. However, students also need to understand what a digital career entails. Where can digital skills be utilised? What industries are they needed in? These types of questions need to be addressed so that students have a clear vision of where and how they can use the skills they garner from science and technology.

Overall, reducing the digital skills gap will be no easy feat. The government will have to continually readdress the curriculum, while schools will need to invest in devices and a technology infrastructure to support a digital future.

But once educational organisations have the technology and storage solutions in place, they can begin to empower a generation of students with the digital skills needed to push the UK onwards and upwards.

Attributed to Chris Neath, head of product development, LapCabby

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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