Together, Tech Industry and Schools Could End STEM Worker Shortage

A shortage of technology workers continues to plague the UK, but a new approach that would bring together those in the market for tech talent and the country’s schools could work to close that skills gap. In addition to the IT GCSE curriculum overhaul supported by the coalition government, putting tech companies in touch with students directly could work to inspire more of them to pursue a career in the tech field after their leave school.

Young kids just do not dream about being programmers and engineers when they’re younger. They want to be firefighters and police officers, doctors and ballerinas, because people who employed in those fields are considered heroic and romantic. There’s probably not a lot of romance to be had in a STEM profession, but jobs in technology can be challenging, fascinating, lucrative and put students in a driver’s seat of the country’s economic future.

And who better to deliver that message to students as early as primary school than current IT professionals?

Tamar Newberger, vice president of marketing for virtualisation security company Catbird, said this type of intervention would benefit the entire tech industry.

“It’s just good business because we cannot staff these jobs and there are not enough good people pursuing technology careers,” she told IT Pro.

Richard Nott , the website director for the recruitment job site CSJobs.co.uk, seconds Newberger’s call for more tech firm involvement. As he explains, those who will be entering the profession in a decade are currently in grappling with rudimentary math in primary school. Driving their interest in pursuing a technology career in 10 years is a job that needs to be done by the technology sector today. Increasing the number of students interested in a STEM career will offer an economic boost in the arm not only to the companies hoping to eventually hire them, but also to the students and the country as a whole.

The introduction of a new GCSE ICT syllabus is a step in the right direction, said Adrian Cullen, technical consultant at IT security company Damballa.

This is because the current one fails to equip students with the kind of IT skills the industry is looking for.

“There are still some very bright children out who are interested in IT that go away and figure things out for themselves, but they’d do that anyway, the problem is the syllabus should support all the children and it clearly doesn’t,” he said.

The first crucial step is finding the right teachers. Only about 35% of ICT instructors have actual technology experience or specific training. A majority are just amateurs.

“We have got to have well-trained teachers and well-equipped schools,” said Dave Smith, school improvement advisor of ICT for Havering School Improvement Services.