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

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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horakva's picture

Do you know Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs? What do you think about it? Do you want to become an active supporter of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs or even Make your pledge now? Next deadline is 31 May 2013. The pledges will be presented at the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin on 19-20 June 2013. More on http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/make-your-pledge-now
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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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nszkutka'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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nfabryea'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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nszkutka'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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nhanrama's picture

More ICT teaching at schools will encourage more young people to take up an ICT career. Right now the problem exists at all levels from first year primary school (age 5) right through to third level education and on. Vocational education is the most powerful way to bridge the skills gap, particularly in the short to medium term. Two immediate things are needed today: starting in September every country should sign up to provide first year primary school children with education through a tablet device. This is the best time to start. At the other end of the spectrum we need to dramatically increase support for vocational training particularly for the unemployed people who should upskill with ICT and help bring Ireland back to its lead position as a centre of ICT activities. FIT (Fast track to IT) has plans to conduct more training not only in Ireland but across the EU. www.fit.ie
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nszkutka's picture

Dear Manus, Thank you for your reply. Two things came to my mind. First, the ICT survey shows that even if schools have equipment, they rarely use it. Will be the same for tablets? Do we need a real change in educations methods too? The second question is, are the methods for teaching young children that from they very early life use tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices the same as for unemployed people who may never have contact with ICT? Curious to hear more from FIT perspective.
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nosimoda's picture

With all the buzz about ICT startups, and movies such as "The Social Network", ICT jobs are now seen as more attractive by young people. One problem is that not all ICT jobs are about starting up a company; mostly require proficiency in scientific disciplines such as maths which are not popular. So we might turn out to have lots of web designer but few data scientists.
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nszkutka's picture

We definitely need role models that go beyond startup hype. Certainly data scientists are much less visible in media so there is a space for new initiatives promoting data analysis skills. Even more importantly, since Gartner predicts that in three years 4.4 million IT staff will be working on big data projects, with 1.2 million in Western Europe alone: http://www.zdnet.com/youre-a-data-what-five-jobs-that-will-win-out-in-th...
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Karl Donert's picture

The Grand Coalition needs to focus on relevant 'applied' technologies where developments are
a) needed to improve quality of life and
b) demand for employees exceeds supply.
The case of geotechnologies is an example where both aspects are covered. Freedom of information has brought a surge in products and tools to make our cities cheaper to run, agriculture more efficient and services more effective. Yet we have a real shortage in technicians, data analysts, graduates and scientists. The reason for this is that geo information technologies have not been integrated into education, they are perceived as difficult and not relevant.
Only a few enlightened countries (Finland for example) seem to recognise the real significance of these technologies.
So the focus must be on encouraging decision makers to become aware of the potential of applied ICT in helping Europe develop. You can visit our project seeking to develop the use of geotechnologies and geo-media in schools at http://www.digital-earth.eu

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nszkutka'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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nthompil's picture

The prevailing model of ICT teaching in UK schools has been "operator training" for Microsoft Office products, by and large. Creating word documents, powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets etc. We have had very little programming or "computer science" instruction, although the movement around the Raspberry Pi single board computer may influence that in the future. It seems odd that buying new low spec hardware might be necessary to influence teaching practices, as the existing equipment could be booted into the same Operating System as a Raspberry Pi, but perhaps that's the sort of step change we need - make a computer cheap and friendly rather than an expensive box surrounded by restrictions. In an EU discussion the linguistics of what is "ICT", "Computer Science" etc may need explaining between participants from different Member States.
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nszkutka's picture

Thom, agree that ICT education should be not about teaching how to handle simple Office applications. Programming skills are much more important for the future professions. But also, as Rick Chandler in his opinion in Computer Weekly points out that we need teachers that are better prepared for teaching ICT. "The current school cohort is digitally native; ICT is evident in every activity of their lives except their education. They are able to research, through the internet, every topic they need but lack a valid curriculum and teacher guidance on achieving it." As for the definitions, point taken. ICT, Computer Science, STEM subjects definition need to be introduced in the discussion to have a common ground for debate.
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nmurrajn's picture

Could it be that ICT is boring at school because school managed to rob ICT of its interactive component? As early as in 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested in “Emile” - his treaty on education – that making learning interactive - even student-centric - is instrumental to match the undivided attention our kids give to their screens: “Put questions within his [the student’s] reach and let him find a solution: he shouldn’t learn science but invent it”.

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nclifian's picture

Parents have a role to play in helping their children understand the entrepreneurial opportunities ICT could offer them in their careers. Parents are not supported or encouraged to do this. I wrote a blog about this a few months ago under the title "A Golden Age of Entrepreneurs" http://iancli.blogspot.co.uk
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njuesacr's picture

Many parents don't know anything about ICT... It's easier to teach teachers (train the trainer) and it would be easy as well to give the parents some training from School Parents Associations, etc...

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nfoleypl'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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nmurrajn'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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nszkutka'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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nliukali'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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nszkutka'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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nbaconli'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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nszkutka'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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nfabryea'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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ndiamerc'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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