A new report from Nominet Trust has found that parents, teachers and business leaders should not rely on the new computing curriculum alone to deliver the skills young people will require when they enter the future workplace.
The State of the Art report, undertaken by independent researcher, Julian Sefton-Green, currently Principal Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, has found there’s no one direct path in a digital learning journey. Rather, it comes down to all those in the child’s circle – parent, teachers and friends – to inform and influence how they take on board the digital skills that will inform them later on in life – whether that’s in the work they do or the life they lead.
Based on detailed research into the progression of learners hoping to establish meaningful careers in the digital sector, the report called for a radical re-think on how parents, teachers and business leaders adequately equip young people for 21st century jobs. While the new computing curriculum is an important first step, the research notes that schools must be given support and resources to extend digital learning across every subject, from art and drama to history and science. Generation Z must also be encouraged to participate in a variety of extra-curricular activities, such as hackathons and code clubs, that allow them to explore technology with parents, peers and experts.
The report also highlighted that young people who are learning digital skills need greater clarity from business leaders on the growing number of career options open to them. With an estimated 750,000 digitally-skilled workers needed to power the UK economy by 2017, the report has found that many young people, with a flair for digital pursuits, are not taking their interests further because they are confused about the opportunities available.
“Over the last few years there has been an increase in the importance placed on digital making – the individual and shared pursuit of creating, coding and producing the digital products we use every day, such as games, websites and apps”, said Julian Sefton-Green.
“However, we still have little understanding of the link between how young people learn to use digital technology and the careers they will eventually pursue when they leave education. This report demonstrates there’s no ‘one size fits all’ strategy, and that the progression of a digital learner is not linear. We as a nation need to go beyond the school gates to fulfil our digital education needs,” he added.
The report found that young people should be given access to role models and mentors from Britain’s booming creative sector, which is responsible for 1.4 million jobs and makes up 5.3% of the country’s gross value-added (GVA), to inspire them to fulfil their potential as makers rather than just consumers of technology. The report also calls on schools and parents to recognise the digital achievements of young people and for their digital ambitions to be seen as credible alternatives to traditional career paths.
Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust, said: “Digital making is still largely viewed as the domain of geeks huddled in the computer labs of large tech companies. But digital skills are increasingly pivotal to art, fashion, film and music as well as to entrepreneurship. There is a growing disconnect in that UK business is in urgent search of those with digital skills while young people are largely unaware of what opportunities are available and what skills are required.
“We need industry role models and mentors to inspire young people to become the next generation of digital makers. We need schools and parents to recognise the potential of digital skills as the foundation for a wide range of jobs and careers. Together we urgently need to highlight the varied and creative opportunities open to those with digital skills while banishing a few stereotypes.”
The report comes ahead of the national launch of Nominet Trust’s iDEA programme next week. Following a successful pilot scheme, iDEA – the inspiring Digital Enterprise Award developed by HRH The Duke of York and Nominet Trust – has pledged to support one million 14-25-year-olds in digital and enterprise skills over the next five years. It offers them the opportunity to attain a number of industry recognised Open Badges and gives them access to valuable mentors. The award aims to unite schools, learning organisations, industry and business entrepreneurs with the goal of boosting the confidence of young people and equipping them on their journey in an increasingly digital world.