Bridging the digital skills divide through collaboration

Ash Merchant
By , - Responsible BusinessEducation

Summer. What this usually represents for many is longer days, holidays and a surplus of ice cream. But for Generation Z, this time of year marks the end of education for most.

With university graduations finished and A-level and GCSE results out, the next few weeks will see many students and school leavers embarking on the next step of their lives: a job.

In such a turbulent market, it’s no secret that the job market for candidates is tougher than ever, meaning more needs to be done by both private and public organisations to prepare the next generation for the workforce. And this should start with closing the looming skills gap, which currently costs the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year.

Indeed, in our Fit for Digital study, over a fifth of UK business found the skills shortage to be one factor hindering their ability to respond to digital disruption.

In an increasingly digitally-led business environment, STEM and digital skills are essential to the UK, both within technology firms and across virtually all other industries.

Tackling the looming skills gap

Whilst both private and public sector organisations have an important role to play in encouraging the uptake of STEM subjects among the next generation, it’s the partnerships they make with educational institutions that will promote change.

Take the news that schoolchildren in England will be offered lessons in cyber security in a bid to find future talent and overcome the skills shortage undermining confidence in the UK’s cyber defences.

This highlights that it’s not just about providing the next generation with technology, but also teaching them how it applies to their everyday lives.

As we quickly progress towards a ‘digital-first’ nation we need to ensure we are investing at the very beginning of the digital journey and developing the right skills to support the future economy.

As the leaders of tomorrow, we owe it to our children: the digital generation.

Adopting a “tech for all” mind-set

Inequality in access to technology in schools is, in fact, one of the biggest challenges we face when it comes to the skills gap.

Because both private and public organisations are now recognising that engaging a diverse range of young people is the only way the UK can protect its future competitiveness, the gap is beginning to close. And this is being supported by collaboration with industry.

Take the opening of our latest innovation hub at South Devon College as a prime example of this.

Following the expansion of our Education Ambassador Programme to 20 new institutions alongside our industry partners Intel, Brocade and Kyocera, we created innovation hubs that support digital learning initiatives and encourage the development of STEM skills for students and teachers.

With the aim of supporting greater collaboration between industry and education, the latest innovation hub looks to aid career skills development by providing expertise on personalised technology in teaching and learning at South Devon College as well as its wider community.

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about providing access to technology, but also about opening up more doorways into STEM careers. And the industry needs to work in tandem with education institutions to make this a success. As Fujitsu is a strong advocate of following through with our commitment to employing young people from our ambassador organisations, we’re proud to have two ex-students – Thomas Stanley – from UTC Reading and Sean Morgan – Fife College employed at Fujitsu.

With business leaders across all sectors telling us the skills shortage is a major threat to the growth of their businesses, both private and public organisations have a responsibility to ensure our digitally native students are equipped with the right skills for employment.

This collaboration between industry and education will prove essential to bridging the UK’s digital skills gap.

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