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

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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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

thanks Liz for the very comprehensive voice in the debate. indeed, as we have already mentioned in this discussion the need to change the image of ICT and to introduce new role models. Investing in teachers' skills in order to have a more engagaging approach to ICT at schools is also a big part of the solution. the ICT in schools survey I mentioned showed that the equipment and broadband won't make a difference if we don't invest in teachers. 

In another thread we discuss also the importance of life long learning & employers' engagement in adult training. 

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Eva Fabry's picture

In my view the GC4J should also showcase, incorporate, scale up and role out on European level already existing successful national Grand Coalition for Jobs initiatives.
The European Center for Women and Technology (ECWT) is collecting good examples of national initiatives in regard to safeguarding the gender dimension of the GC4J.
A good example of a national GC4J success story is the WING project led by the German Aerospace Academy (ASA), supported by the Ministry for Finances and Economy in Baden-Württemberg and more than 20 private and non-profit actors joining forces to support the re-entry of women in STEM professions leading to more than 50% employment after completing the different modules including: competency-vouchers, workshops, groupcoaching, quality certification, a six month traineeship and complemented with clustering / networking of participants. After the initial good outcomes, the project is now prolonged until end of 2014.
For more information about the WING project and other examples: eva.fabry(at)womenandtechnology.eu

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Mercedes M Diaz Sanchez's picture

I read a few comments around teachers and teaching ICT in schools. I agree with what has been said before about the fundamental error teaching “how to use” Microsoft tools, or basic computer literacy at schools. In other hand, right now we don’t have hackers teaching in schools, and quite frequently we see situations were kids skills are highly above the ones of the person trying to teach. Being practical I think in coming years we should try to see teachers less as a source of ICT knowledge and more like guide support kids on their research, help them to find information and build the right skills through experimentation. YAG team already mentioned something on these lines in our proposals earlier this year ( http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/neelie-kroes/files/YAGi-education-proposals.doc )
Additionally we need to keep in mind that ICT evolution is not only a constant process, but also speeding up and getting broader. Expecting to have well-prepared teachers in every subject, in every school is not realistic. Whatever approach we decide to take for education in coming years should be aware of this, and be flexible enough to adapt to kids and market needs, forgetting the traditional “teacher as source of all wisdom” model.

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