Why 2018’s school leavers will keep learning, unlearning and relearning for years to come

As techUK launches research to assess the readiness of students for the future working world, the industry body’s policy manager India Lucas looks at what lies in store for this year’s A-level students

Students at Ark Academy in Wembley receive their A-level results yesterday  Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Yesterday was A-level results day, a defining moment in one’s adolescence, where we naively assume our formal education is over, whilst parents warn that ‘just because you’ve left school, doesn’t mean you’ve stopped learning. In the age of digital, where individuals will be required to upskill and reskill throughout their careers, this saying has never rung truer.

Looking beyond school leavers, there is an abundance of data on the UK’s wider digital skills gap. For example, research has found that 63% of UK jobs now require above-basic digital skills. Another study shows that 76% of British firms across industries report a digital skills shortage in their workforce. 

There are two parts that must be addressed to solve the digital skills gap. First, there is the need to improve technical digital skills and improve an individual’s competency with technology. Second, more must be done to improve students’ competencies and ‘soft skills’. 

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On the former, the UK government is clearly taking great steps to attempt to improve the teaching of digital skills and use of digital across the curriculum. 

The newly created T-Levels, which will begin courses in September 2020, have a mandatory digital element to them alongside mathematics and literacy. Similarly, last year’s budget committed to upskilling 8,000 computer science secondary teachers. 

However, it is widely known that only 7,600 students took A-level computing last year and of that, only 9.8% were girls. That is simply not enough to meet our growing digital skills gap, and more must be done to promote STEM and computer science subjects to students. 

On the latter – core competencies and soft skills – we know that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. And, therefore, an individual’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will be integral for their success in the digital age. Problem-solving, critical thinking and team leadership must be better taught in schools to ensure school leavers have the life skills to thrive in the world of work.

The UK’s digital skills gap looks only set to widen if we do not ensure our schooling system produces individuals who will be able to harness the benefits of emerging technologies.

Have your say
At techUK, we are keen to hear about what parents in the tech industry – or in tech roles in another industry – are telling their children about the Future of Work. Are you concerned about your child’s preparedness for work? Do you think schools have the correct digital infrastructure to make your child tech literate? Do you completely disagree with the premise of this article? Whatever your thoughts, we want to listen – so, please click here to take 10 minutes to fill out our survey


Sam Trendall

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