Think Big supports UK focus on digital skills

We caught up with Head of Sustainability at O2, Bill Eyres, and Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna MP at the launch of the Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World report to talk about the importance of developing digital skills in young people, and how big businesses like ours can help.

Our 2013 report on The Future Digital Skills Needs of the UK Economy, estimated that 745,000 additional workers with digital skills will be needed to meet rising demand from employers between 2013 and 2017.  Yet as of March 2014 there were still 975,000 young people in the UK who were not in education, employment or training, despite Microsoft reporting that there were 100,000 unfilled vacancies in partner companies across the UK last year.

The new report – Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World – led by Maggie Philbin, former Tomorrow’s World presenter, technology broadcaster and Chief Executive of TeenTech, was presented to Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, at our Wayra Academy in London this month.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Government should invest at least an additional £20 million by 2020 to help successfully embed the new computing curriculum in schools across England.  Current funding levels of £3.5m equate to just £175 per school.
  • Digital skills are essential not just to the labour market, but to participation in everyday life. Government should invest to extend basic digital skills to all of the UK population by 2020, sharing the cost with businesses and the charitable sector.
  • Computing should become a fourth ‘core science’. There should be a digital component to education and training opportunities for young people up to the age of 19.
  • Radical simplification of the apprenticeship system to ensure that more digital businesses, especially SMEs, invest in apprentices. The process remains too opaque for businesses of all sizes.
  • A new ‘Digital Challenge for schools’, modelled on the successful London Challenge initiative, to foster partnerships between schools and businesses and raise standards of teaching, showcase career opportunities and inspire a new generation into technology
  • Sandwich years and industrial placements should be expanded for computer science students and university computer science departments should have active Industrial Advisory Boards to help keep them updated with industry developments.

Find out more about the work we’re doing to help young people and entrepreneurs. Visit O2 Think Big and Wayra UK for more info.