Schools competition bids to narrow the digital skills gap

Vodafone Foundation’s Digital Creators’ Challenge is open to 11-14 year olds

September will see the launch of a new effort to boost young people’s interest in the technology sector and help close the digital skills gap. The Digital Creators’ Challenge is a competition for secondary schools across England, Scotland and Wales, and bids to nurture understanding of the field and, ultimately, encourage participants to consider a career in tech.

The competition launches a year on from the Centre for Economics and Business Research’s report on the economic impact of digital inclusion, and its underlining of how crucial to future prosperity the subject is set to become. Its stark conclusions included a warning that digital illiteracy could see the UK miss out on £21.8bn worth of economic benefits in the coming decade, with seven million people ‘left behind’. By contrast, it estimated that every £1 spent on digital skills provision now would be worth £15 within 10 years.

The Digital Creators’ Challenge aims to build students’ digital skills, raise awareness of the digital careers available, and increase diversity across technology.
Helen Lamprell, Vodafone Foundation

Thus, the importance of initiatives such as this competition, open to 11-14 year olds, and organised by the Vodafone Foundation in partnership with Teach First, Hopscotch and Apps for Good.

Trustee of the foundation, Helen Lamprell, outlined the scale of the challenge ahead.

“A recent report found only 2.7% of students chose computing or computer science qualifications at A-Level in the UK,” she said. “This suggests a digital skills gap in the younger generation – the future workforce for our digital age. Research also shows that girls are under-represented in this area.

“The Digital Creators’ Challenge aims to close this gap, by building students’ digital skills, raising awareness of the digital careers available, and increasing diversity across technology.”

It is estimated that every £1 spent on digital skills provision now will be worth £15 within 10 years

Workshops run by competition partner, Apps for Good, illustrate the benefits of introducing the potential of digital careers to young people. They have found that:

  • half of participants became more interested in working in tech
  • 80% improved their product design skills
  • 70% improved their confidence
  • 53% were more interested in specialising in computing and IT during school and further studies

The Digital Creators’ Challenge will run from September to January, giving young people the opportunity to collaborate on designing an app to improve lives in their local community.

Up to £6,000 of IT equipment is on offer to the winners.

Related news: UK government announces £18.5m investment in AI training

Workbooks and toolkits will be available online, together with practical training and tech advice from Apps for Good and Vodafone. Selected schools in government-identified Opportunity Areas will be invited to app development days to help further their ideas.

In March, shortlisted finalists will be invited to showcase their entries to an expert panels at Vodafone’s Newbury-based technology hub.

Schools and community groups are invited to register their interest from today at vodafone/digitalcreatorschallenge

Free live webinar & QA

Blended learning – Did we forget about the students?

Free Education Webinar with Class

Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

Join our expert panel as we look at what blended learning means in 2022 and how universities can meet the needs of ever more diverse student expectations.