How establishing role models can help tackle the skills shortage in technology

Industry insiders are well aware of the fantastic benefits that a career in tech can offer, but these messages are not reaching young people when they make the all-important decisions around which subjects to choose at school and college, and later what career they choose to pursue.

In addition to this, schools have the demands of a tough curriculum and a tight timetable to meet. There are also many different schemes and initiatives for them to engage with so it can be difficult to choose the best match for their pupils.

So how can the tech industry reach out to these young people and show them what a fulfilling long-term career in tech can offer them?

>See also: Mind the gap: Solving the skills shortage in software development

The employers of the Tech Partnership and STEMNET have worked together to create the TechFuture Ambassador scheme to address this very issue. It brings existing tech professionals into schools around the country, presenting role models who can talk engagingly to young people about what their job means to them.

Tech is often taught in a very formal way. In contrast, TechFuture Ambassadors can help change the way young people perceive technology careers by presenting genuine, first hand, positive experiences.

Research shows that young people start to make decisions about their future careers at an early age, particularly when it comes to what they don’t want to do when they leave school, so it is vital that as many inspiring tech spokespeople come forward as possible.

The industry is fast paced and ever changing, and many of the jobs that will be available when these young people leave school may not have been created yet.

Ambassadors can help bridge the gap between industry and education, offering genuine careers insights that will enable young people to make informed choices about the subjects they choose to take at school – choices that will provide the skills they need to secure a job when they leave education.

The flexibility of the programme makes it attractive to schools and employers alike – the organisers hope it will encourage schools to work with companies that are local to them.

By reaching out to young people, TechFuture Ambassadors can also influence the teachers – influencers with a profound impact on young people’s career decisions.

Tech really is the ideal transportable and transferrable career that can help establish a career in any sector, anywhere in the world. This is why it is vital that we can show young people that they can move from being avid consumers of technology to creating the tech of the future.

Ankita Jaitly, a consultant at Tata Consultancy Services, said: “As an ambassador interacting with different students, I realised the misconceptions and stereotypes students have about careers in technology. Since I am in a non-conventional tech role, I feel I can influence and change that perception and hopefully encourage students to think seriously about a career in tech and science.”

She added: “Each ambassador can contribute to helping the next generation make better informed choices. I believe if I can spread the word about the benefits of the scheme within my organisation and to my social circle, it will create a chain reaction. If each of us can influence one person to join, we will have several ambassadors to help and mentor students.”

TechFuture Ambassadors volunteer their time in schools (primary and secondary) to actively inspire young people about the exciting career opportunities in tech. In order to engage young people about tech careers, it’s vital that the activities the ambassadors carry out offer a real insight into the digital industry.

Tech Partnership has a number of resources that TechFuture Ambassadors can get involved with, including starting up or volunteering at a TechFuture Girls club; guiding students through cyber security teaching modules on TechFuture Careers; and helping teachers deliver practical lesson guides and group activities from the TechFuture Teachers Careers Resource Pack.

TechFuture Ambassador Siân Parfitt, a HP programme analyst who is working with a TechFuture Girls club, said: “I volunteered to get involved in supporting a club because I am passionate about the development of young people and want to see more young women entering a career in IT. TechFuture Girls clubs are a great way of getting girls excited about IT and improve their understanding of the vast number of career opportunities available in the IT sector.”

The industry is already throwing its support behind the TechFuture Ambassador scheme and more than 300 ambassadors have signed up. Current ambassadors come from all areas of the UK and represent 140 organisations of all sizes, including SMEs, large corporates, universities and government departments.

Tata Consultancy Services’ Yogesh Chauhan said: “This is a great achievement. With so many TechFuture Ambassadors we are really starting to make a difference enthusing young people about opportunities in our sector. The job is not done and we want to encourage everyone with a technology expertise to sign up and build on this success.”

If you want to help inspire the tech workers of the future by becoming a TechFuture Ambassador, visit the Tech Partnership website.

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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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