Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

How to encourage more young people to envisage a degree in ICT ?

Discussion

The recent ICT in schools survey shows that students and teachers in Europe are keen to "go digital". The computer numbers have doubled since 2006 and most schools are now "connected", but use of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and digital skill levels are very uneven. How can we make the ICT skills and training  available to all students and teachers in Europe? Is it a good way to spark youth interest in ICT career?

How we can encourage youth to choose ICT degree and later pursue their career in ICT? What other ideas do you have in order to increase the number of ICT professionals and fill 1 MLN jobs in ICT gap

 

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Comments

Paul Foley's picture

A couple of years ago I ran some workshops with ICT centre managers. One of the largest problems they encountered was that many who visited for 'taster' sessions lacked the basic levels of literacy to undertake simple online searches. Many ended up forging mutually beneficial cross-referral partnerships with adult learning centres. Levels of functional literacy (reading and writing skills adequate "to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.") in many Member States for those over 16 are surprisingly high - 22.6% in Ireland, 21.8% in UK, 19.8% in France. The problem, for many, extends beyond having the motivation and access to ICT.
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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Dear Eva, Thank you for your example. Very inspiring and the gender dimension is one of the important facet of the GC4J.
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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Dear Karl, definitely at the core of GC4J are the initiatives that will fill the skills gap but you are right that meeting social challenges with the use of ICT may be also a source of inspiration for young people and therefore a driver for choosing an ICT career.
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Jonathan Murray's picture

The Commision has done much to attract young people to ICT careers through its e-Skills Week campaigns. (http://eskills-week.ec.europa.eu/web/guest;jsessionid=8188CEB07BD486FCA0...). As we know, messages need to repeated, repeated and yes repeated before they sink in (the specialist say 7 is the magical number)...so lets continue creating such awareness through similar campaigns

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

Jonathan, campaigns are indeed very effective, especially if they promote new role models and go against stereotype of the boring ICT job a lot of people have towards a more exciting jobs that are making use of ICT such as game & graphic designers, web enterpreneurs or data scientists.

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Linda Liukas's picture

A few remarks from my own meandering path in technology (I've never had a formal education in tech):

Working with technology is creative - it's not a silo of repetitive, lonely and introverted work. All developers I know is constantly learning, challenging themselves and working with a group of global peers. When I get stuck with a problem, I don't necessarily ask someone sitting next to me - I'll reach out to others all around the world.

And as someone mentioned there's a whole new cadre of professions being born for people who can apply technology. I don't necessarily think code wins all arguments, but the ability to build your ideas, get the data you need or to share a language of 21st century be it JavaScript or something else, will be immensely valuable. It will be as valuable as being able to speak english- not everyone needs to have a PhD in english, but ability to express yourself without constant help from others makes a difference.

And finally - the role models. I think code.org has done a wildly successful job in channeling the clearest version of the correct message in their campaigns. Time for us in Europe to think who our coding superheroes would be?

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Eva Fabry's picture

Hi Katarzyna, I wonder why it stands 'not verified' after my name. I wrote my entry as a reply to your request for examples on the DAA page. I have an ECAS registration. And would prefer to have this corrected, if you could kindly advise how to make the correction. Thanks for your help!
Eva Fabry, Director of the European Centre for Women and Technology - ECWT

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Liz Bacon's picture

In terms of the question, the first thing to recognise is that ICT is an umbrella term covering all aspects of modern digital technologies, and skillsets ranging from basic user skills all the way to the creation and invention of new tools and systems. This also means that the concept of a "degree in ICT" can refer to degrees teaching digital user skills in various subject areas, whereas those degrees associated with the development and creation of digital technologies tend to be in the area of Informatics, Computing or Computer Science throughout the EU.

Definitions aside, in the UK evidence has shown that school pupils are switched off ICT at around the age of 13. Causes are numerous but include a boring School curriculum focussed on user, not developer, skills; a nerdy image, frequently backed up by media representations of ICT professionals; and a lack of qualified teachers, many of whom do not have a good understanding of the subject and are therefore unable to inspire young people into the discipline, leaving many school pupils unclear what a degree in the field is about. In the UK, anecdotal evidence suggests that some Schools will also steer students to take subjects in which pupils traditionally perform better (computing not being one of them), thus enabling schools to meet performance KPIs and achieve higher status in national league tables. Additionally, women perceive the industry as being male dominated and many who do make it through a relevant degree, struggle with the male culture that often exists in male dominated IT departments.

In order to reverse this trend, we need educated teachers, in addition to helping parents, pupils, headteachers and careers advisers understand the discipline better. A recent initiative in England has been to introduce more computing into the school curriculum to ensure a wider understanding of the subject at School and to support this, the Government is investing in funded teacher training places and a grass roots network to help train existing teachers to teach computer science, supported by their local university, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/facebook-microsoft-and-bcs-back-gover...

Another area for investment in the UK is financial support for individuals and tax breaks for employers, to assist with reskilling / upskilling of the current workforce, predominantly as a reaction to the demise of traditional industries and the unemployment thus created. However, there is a need for a general purpose funding mechanism, particularly for those seeking to develop high level digital professional skills through undergraduate or postgraduate degree studies, to provide encouragement and support, which may also assist women back into the workforce after career breaks.

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

I think the simplest way is that you copy-paste the text and submit once more your entry and then I will delete the one that says 'unverified'. Would it help? 

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Katarzyna Szkuta's picture

thanks Linda for your input. the creativity of tech is exactly what we should show to young people. so I'm up for the "European Coding Supersheroes' initiative !

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