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Breaking down the barriers of a career in tech

It's no secret that in the UK we have a digital skills gap, but fortunately, progress is now being made, says Bath Spa's Lee Scott

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | June 01, 2016 | Technology

The BBC reported at the end of 2015 that over 12 million people, and a million small businesses in the UK, do not have the skills to prosper in the digital era. This is a significant issue and the result of a long ignored problem which has been rearing its head since the 1950’s. 

Technology continues to thrive. With all types of businesses and organisations now heavily reliant on digital technology in order to function, it’s now more important than ever that we have a strong workforce of digitally savvy individuals to meet the needs of the economy. Many influential figures have spoken out on this topic; with the government's former digital advisor Baroness Martha Lane Fox warning that if the gap isn’t closed soon it will threaten economic growth, productivity and social mobility.

However I’m pleased to say that progress is now being made. Both Government and businesses are getting behind the drive to train the next generation and current workforce, in order to shrink the current skills gap. We’ve seen the introduction of campaigns like ‘Make it Digital’ by the BBC, as well as the set-up of charities like Doteveryone to champion technology.

Fortunately people have recognised how crucial teaching computing at Key Stage 2 and 3 is.  With the right approach, children could enter higher education divorced from the stigma of gender stereotypes in computing, and free from the worry that strong maths skills are a necessity to succeed in this area. We’re now seeing coding taught at primary school level; often using devices like the Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi to encourage imaginative thinking. This is a small, but important step that I hope will help supply the digital economy with individuals who wield both programming skills and creative flair.  Finally, the internet has provided the perfect platform for tech bloggers, academics, social media gurus and experts within the industry to hammer home the message that technology is here to stay.

We’ve joined the conversation and recently launched our campaign #ThisGirlCodes to encourage more young women to enter a career in tech. Because aside from the digital skills gap, those working in the sector are facing a huge gender divide, with women only holding 26% of all tech jobs

We’ve joined the conversation and recently launched our campaign #ThisGirlCodes to encourage more young women to enter a career in tech. Because aside from the digital skills gap, those working in the sector are facing a huge gender divide, with women only holding 26% of all tech jobs.

We’re encouraging everyone in the computing industry to share the great work women are doing in this field by using #ThisGirlCodes so they can inspire the next generation of coders, animators and game makers. To us, it seems a no-brainer that more young women should be looking at careers in computing. We’re looking to close a gender gap, to challenge mind-sets in education, in the workplace and industry, as well as how women see themselves in the creative computing space. We think it’s vital that we dissolve the misrepresentation that technology is a career for men, both in the workplace, and the media.

Although the UK has taken big steps forward in tackling this issue in recent years, there is still more that can be done. If we’re really ready to see an impact and make a difference in society we need to focus our efforts on encouraging more people to choose technology based degrees and qualifications. We will only achieve this by breaking barriers and crushing stigmas.

Our reliance on technology is only going to grow and like coding, various aspects will become daunting and inaccessible to those who haven’t had the sufficient teaching or training. It’s so important that we’re not left out the conversation and that we take action to rectify the divide.

Teachers and lecturers at every level should get on board and help ensure the UK’s children and students are as equipped as they can be. Let’s close the digital skills gap, celebrate technology and inspire the next generation.

Lee Scott is subject leader of Creative Computing at Bath Spa University.

 

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