We often talk about digital transformation in the context of the workplace, or the way we buy things, or even our leisure time.
But what about the way it impacts arguably the most important part of our lives?
The education sector is the bridge between childhood and being a productive member of society, but as the pace of digital change increases it’s becoming harder for schools to keep up.
That was the key theme in the education session at Fujitsu World Tour 2017: the idea that schools, colleges and universities must work closely with industry to ensure those entering the workplace are truly prepared for what’s ahead.
As Fujitsu’s Education Director Ash Merchant said, we are facing a growing digital skills gap. We, as educators and employers alike, have a responsibility to prepare young people for the future.
And part of that comes down to developing new skills. Ones we don’t even know we need yet.
“Jobs are changing,” Ash said. “Companies are trying to adapt. Education needs to collaborate with industry to ensure the workforce of tomorrow is learning the relevant skills.”
And who better to champion that message than somebody who’s been there, done it and got several t-shirts in the process?
Jeffery Fowler is CEO and Principal of London Design and Engineering College – a technical school where (in its own words) “academic excellence and employer partners create the next generation of confident, independent, work-ready individuals.”
Here are some of the key points from his talk…
A new kind of school
Three years ago Jeffery was asked to design a new school from scratch. Something different, that solved the ongoing problem of education not aligning with workplace needs.
No easy feat. But Jeffery had a plan.
He would listen. Not just to pupils, or parents, or employers, but to all of them at once. And he would hear all their needs and take all of their advice and create a school for the future.
That’s how the London Design and Engineering College came to be – a mainstream school with GCSEs and A levels and apprenticeships, but with a difference…
“Creativity is at the heart of the learning,” Jeffery said, describing it as “a school of imaginers.”
He described how pupils work directly with industry, learning in a real-world environment with academic support. An industry partner delivers a brief for a project, and the teachers then weave it into the curriculum.
Projects can last one lesson or a whole term, with the objective being that pupils create something tangible by the end of it. One brief came in from water charity WaterAid. The organisation tasked pupils with creating a 3D model of an Ethiopian village in virtual reality. Another was from Thames Water, asking pupils to come up with a way to fix a leaky reservoir.
On top of forcing the pupils to learn new technical skills, this project-based way of learning also gives them experience in troubleshooting the kind of problems they’ll come up against as they enter the workplace.
We all know that tech has a diversity problem – women filled just 21% of core STEM occupations last year (down by 1% on 2015), according to figures from WISE.
While employers must play their part in improving those figures, the journey to equality begins with education. School is the place where you can inspire young girls and pupils from other underrepresented groups to choose a career in tech.
That is one of the most interesting things about Jeffery’s school. It has a strong focus on diversity that should, in theory, transfer into the workplace. While just over a quarter of year 12 pupils are female, for year 10 that figure jumps to 46%.
And Jeffrey is confident things will improve even further. “By 2018 we’ll have a 50/50 gender split,” he said.
Clearly, this is a step in the right direction towards inspiring a new generation of female tech workers.
The young person’s view
After hearing Jeffrey talk I thought I’d catch up with some of the people who understand this stuff first-hand: the pupils themselves. I asked them about their experience at London Design and Engineering College and how they feel they’ve benefited.
One pupil told me how this style of learning has provided him with a level of confidence he wouldn’t have had otherwise. “It teaches you to do things for yourself,” he said. “When you need to know something, you realise you can’t always wait for someone to help you out.”
Another pupil told me how it taught her to collaborate more effectively. “You might not even enjoy working with some people,” she admitted. “But you just learn to work together and get things done.”
Finally, another pupil proved that highly technical learning doesn’t have to wait until university – younger people are smart enough and hungry enough to take it on. “Usually you only learn this stuff in university,” he said. “But we’re doing it now.”
Learn more about how Fujitsu is co-creating with education:
- Taking education digital – where does responsibility lie?
- Teaming up with OCR to deliver a digital education
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