How digital literacy opens doors for school leavers

Grant Smith, vice president of education at Code Ninjas, on how digital literacy is integral to success in today’s connected world

With spring exam season fast approaching, many teens are facing the life-changing decision of what subjects to choose, and even what career path to follow when they leave school. With the support of their parents and career advisors, this is one of the first long-term decisions of a student’s life. But how can parents and other authoritative influencers ensure students have access to as many opportunities as possible? In short, by ensuring they have access to a vast range of educational resources to instil them with the spectrum of skills needed to stand out from the crowd. In stark contrast to days gone by, one particular skillset continues to climb the ranks in an employer’s list of non-negotiable attributes: digital literacy.

The digital skills gap

But despite the vast array of career opportunities available in our digitally reliant world, it would seem the majority of school leavers are still entering – or attempting to enter – the workplace with a lack of digital skills. The proof is in the numbers. In a recent study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, 73% of UK engineering and technology companies said they experienced problems hiring with job candidates. These young, hopeful graduates are entering the tech sector without enough practical experience or knowledge, rendering themselves unqualified from the start. This problem is fast becoming an epidemic – it’s estimated that there are currently 750,000 tech sector vacancies in the UK alone. Five years from now, the lack of skilled digitally literate workers could equate to the high-profile lack of teaching and medical staff across the UK.

So, how do we ensure that the next generation of school leavers are better equipped than their older counterparts? As a parent of two myself, I’m passionate about setting children up with every opportunity in life. I believe the benefits of encouraging creativity, independence and confidence by supporting my children to explore their passions and hobbies will serve them well into their adult lives, personally and professionally. Whilst there’s still the usual interest in sports and music, in 2020, there are more children showing a passion for gaming, drones and robots than ever before. And it’s these things that I believe should be encouraged, as early on as possible, to counter the widening skills gap employers face today.

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The future is digital

The benefits of encouraging digital skills are infinite. Digital education, such as computer coding programmes, teach children and young adults how to collaborate, solve problems and think logically. Allocating consistent time for children to nurture their love of technology, outside the usual regime of school hours, encourages fun whilst learning. Studies have shown that this increases a child’s ability to retain knowledge which, in turn, improves their performance during school hours. Essentially, a well-rounded grasp on digital technology will equip Generations Z and Alpha with the necessary tools to succeed in tomorrow’s world. There will be no limitations on knowledge or practical experience.

The future is female

It’s also important to mention that only 5% of leadership roles within the tech sector are held by women and, across the board, women are outnumbered 4:1. In many cases, this is because girls and young women are not exposed to STEM subjects early on, or they are quick to disregard them when the time comes for them to opt in at GCSE age. We are about to observe International Women’s Day – a date dedicated to the celebration of female achievements and attributes, specifically in the workplace.

I believe that gender stereotyping in tech education can still be an issue in mainstream schooling. Girls aren’t exposed to the opportunities in the sector when, in fact, they possess a whole host of attributes synonymous with digital literacy.

Gone are the days that apprenticeships in engineering or childcare were the top options for school leavers. In today’s technology-fuelled age, digital literacy is crucial. Exposing children to STEM and coding education early on in their development will see them stand out from the crowd when the time comes for CV writing and job applications. 

For more information about Code Ninjas, to find out when a centre might be opening near you – or if you’re interested in opening one of your own – visit www.codeninjasfranchise.co.uk.

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