Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d.

Over the past few months I have been working closely with e-skills UK, the not-for-profit , employer-led organisation, licensed by government as the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology. Their aim is ensure the UK has the skills for Digital Britain, to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of the global digital economy.

I was shocked to find out, in some research they commissioned, there has been a massive drop off in the uptake of Computing degrees over the last five years. UK applicants to Computing / Information Systems / Software Engineering courses have dropped by 50%, down to 13,500 people by 2006.

This is worrying when over 141,000 new entrants a year are needed to fill IT & Telecoms professional job roles and the growth forecast for the IT & Telecoms professional workforce (i.e. IT & Telecoms Employment in the IT  industry is predicted to grow at 5 times the average for the UK.

What’s even more scary is the gender imbalance is prevalent on IT-related courses, and this is worsening over time throughout the education system. 15% of applicants to Computing degree courses are female and 10% of A-level Computing students are female. Now the proportion of female IT & Telecoms professionals has dropped to 18%.

I have been working with eskills on their Big Ambition Girls In IT events- They have been doing a stellar job helping school girls meet women in IT professions to share and gain an insight into what it’s actually like working in IT, but now the project is under threat as the government proposes to send its funding somewhere else.

There has been much debate on why there aren’t more girls in IT and I have strong views on the subject. I believe the problem is still to do with the stigma attached to tech related courses – It’s uncool to be geeky or nerdy and the last subject hormonal 14-year-girls want to choose for their GCSEs, is one where they think they’ll be locked away in a dark room learning excel- Yet so many 14-year-old girls are surrounding themselves with technology every day. Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, mobiles, iPods, girls are using technology 24-7 but they aren’t shown the connections between studying tech and the kind of jobs it could create for them. Cool jobs that are well paid and aren’t geeky: designing the next Wii game or a Prada watch that syncs with their phone, working at Facebook.

To solve the problem the Government needs to convert the current curriculum from being completely irrelevant to one which is flexible and adapting as fast as the technology industry is, and most importantly like eskills has been doing with Big Ambition, we need to give girls access to more female role models in IT and  show them the connections between studying IT and the career path it could lead to. We need to make tech sexy, make it appealing and shake of the stigma that’s turning girls away from an industry that is very cool, has much to offer and should be dominating the future of Britain.

The eskills research is really good, some scary numbers though..I have uploaded it for you here http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B_QPgUoZvqbyOTYzZjAxMDUtMmU5Ni00MzFkLWI5MDgtYzJjMWM5MTVkNzNm&hl=en

Here’s a video we did an an event they had a couple months back, Lord Steven Carter spoke about the Digital Britian report and industry professionals came to see the work eskills have been doing.

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Comments (16) | Leave a comment

  1. Zoe Rose says:

    RT @ ElrikMerlin @hermioneway: Applicants to IT courses dropped 50% —141,000 IT jobs needed. Dang. http://bit.ly/198Erg

  2. cyberdoyle says:

    and again! I will RT @Bash: RT @Hermioneway Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d. « Techfluff.tv http://bit.ly/198Erg

  3. Phil Makower says:

    RT @Bash: RT @Hermioneway Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d. « Techfluff.tv http://bit.ly/198Erg

  4. Armin Talic says:

    I think it has very little to do with stigma.

    It comes down to the fact that, no matter which way you look at it, drastically less women have an interest in IT.

    Having graduated a 4 year course in Computer Science this year, I saw a big increase in women taking computing related courses at Northumbria uni.

    GCSE and A level IT courses need to be spiced up before we can expect and increase in uptake.

  5. hermione says:

    I don’t think its that girls have less of an interest in IT, I think they are interested in different ways- I’m sure I read somewhere that girls use social networks more than men?!

    Maybe if the courses were designed to incorporate current IT business and Web 2.0 they might be more appealing?

    I understand that you don’t have to take a course in IT to end up working in IT and many of the best professionals come in to the IT sector via a different route- but that’s the point- why aren’t they coming in via IT courses-could it be that the courses aren’t teaching the right things?

  6. Melanie C says:

    RT @ggdworldwide: Applicants to IT related courses dropped by 50% whilst 141,000 IT jobs needed.Digital Britain: http://bit.ly/198Erg

  7. Richard Woon says:

    Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d. « Techfluff.tv http://bit.ly/Kg49O

  8. Ray Scott says:

    I usually read your posts in Google Reader, so your ‘new’ blog is WOW! The mutt’s nuts :)

    If I’d known you were interviewing Alistair Stewart, I would have asked you to pass on a shout-out from the rest of us regulars on Waterloo to Alton service :)

  9. RT @ElrikMerlin: RT @hermioneway: Applicants to IT courses dropped 50% —141,000 IT jobs needed. … http://bit.ly/198Erg

  10. RT @onyxplutonian: RT @ElrikMerlin: RT @hermioneway: Applicants to IT courses dropped 50% —141,000 IT jobs needed. … http://bit.ly/198Erg

  11. Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d. « Techfluff.tv: Over the past few months I have been working closel.. http://bit.ly/3jklAi

  12. Mark Avey says:

    Digital Britain: Basically we’re f****d. http://bit.ly/o0DYp

  13. @techiebird says:

    We should definitely be trying to create more female technology role models, and make sure both girls and boys get the chance to see the range of cool and fun technologies there are to work with.

    Having said that, while we had ‘Women In Technology’ events at my (girls only) secondary school, I’m not convinced they made any difference in my case – I was already geeking out at 11 with my ZX Spectrum, and knew I wanted to do something technical.

    Another related point – I work in an IT department for a big corporation and most of the colleagues I most look up to don’t have an IT degree. There are a lot of other engineering disciplines represented, and some of the most influential technologists I can think of are people with social and behavioural sciences backgrounds. Multi-discipline teams are definitely a good thing!

    So… perhaps we should be showing how (for instance) behavioural scientists are helping software and hardware designers change the face of how people interact with machines, or how technology and the arts meet to create possibilities that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

  14. #

    #
    RT @hermioneway: Applicants to IT courses dropped by 50% whilst 141,000 IT jobs needed Digital Britain: http://bit.ly/198Erg

  15. F**K off says:

    F**K off- if you don’t want to end up like Trina Thompson, don’t even IT a computer.

  16. Lily says:

    Really interesting post and research, I’ve been interested in these issues since I did my Computer Science degree and I definitely agree that a massive part of this all is about ‘priming the pipeline’ and getting girls interested in a younger age. There’s certainly been a lot of research done to even show that different teaching methods work better with girls, for example, pair programming, and of course girls are more likely than boys to choose career paths based on their enjoyment of lessons so it’s even more vital to get it right!

    I think there are a number of different programmes that are being carried out by a lot of groups at the moment, so it’s hard to evaluate what has the most effect, but would be interesting to hear how you think the Big Ambition programme is doing.

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