To transform edtech, we must invest in our youth and collaborate

Michael Houlihan, UK lead for Generation, on how technology will be the driving force behind the future of work

How can it be that one million young people in the UK are not in education, employment or training, while 40% of employers argue there is a shortage of qualified candidates for skilled entry-level jobs? The UK is becoming a paradox where an unprecedented demand for skilled employees exists simultaneously with unemployment and underemployment.

Classrooms and lecture halls remain virtually unchanged from preceding student generations, while the nature of the jobs on offer outside their walls are a world away from those experienced by their parents and grandparents.

Young adults at university have never experienced life without the presence of the internet

Technology has become fundamental to work practices across every sector and almost all occupations: at least 82% of advertised openings now require some level of digital skill. But according to the CBI, almost half of young people in the UK feel that their education has not prepared them for these jobs.

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A national concern 

This is no longer a future concern; it is an imminent crisis that if not addressed, could have alarming results – with more than 750,000 estimated unfilled ICT sector jobs in Europe. In the UK alone, the digital skills gap could forfeit the economy more than £140bn of potential GDP growth from investment in intelligent technologies.

To create a world of educated technologists, edtech investment must work for all young people and prepare them for the rapidly developing technologies they will be navigating throughout their lives. 

It’s not just about the technological training, but also the accompanying soft skills. By 2030, 14% of the global workforce will need to reskill due to workforce disruption. We are setting future generations up to fail if we do not teach them transferable, more indefinable skills that allow them flexibility to change profession throughout their careers.

It’s not just on education providers to address this issue; no single organisation or government can solve the digital skills gap in isolation. Employers, young people, policy-makers, education providers and training organisations must work together to develop innovative models.

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New structures are emerging which are more flexible and responsive to ever-changing industry needs – on top of being more accessible to the younger generation, regardless of background. They can be integrated into existing communities which allows them to meet specific needs. 

These models include ‘bootcamp’ style training programmes, where individuals can be trained in the skills required by the labour market quickly. ‘For profit, for purpose’ organisations such as General Assembly, and Makers Academy have made use of the opportunity, with hundreds of employers now recruiting software engineers from those programmes as an alternative option to computer science graduates. 

Classrooms and lecture halls remain virtually unchanged from preceding student generations, while the nature of the jobs on offer outside their walls are a world away from those experienced by their parents and grandparents

Empowering young people to collaborate

In the charity sector, Generation creates similar models which support and enable young people who have previously faced barriers to employment. Generation delivers technology training programmes rooted in the skills employers seek, working closely with other charities and government services to identify candidates who are strong fits for these career opportunities. 

For programmes such as Generation to be successful, they must focus on more than just technical skills. Technologists must embrace a growth mindset, allowing employees to thrive through inevitable technological change. The models also offer support beyond the technical

training, with the students being offered mentorship programmes to help them gain the soft skills required for the working environment.

Technology is – and will continue to be – the driving force in the future of work.

It is therefore imperative that we provide the right training for future generations.


You might also like: The Edtech Demonstrator Programme: a new dawn for the sector

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