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Blog: Newsnight sends IT back to school
Added October 12, 2011
Anyone who knows me will tell you it’s a bit out of character to find me watching Newsnight, especially when Top Gear USA is on the other side!
I made sure I tuned in on Monday night though, to catch a report on the games industry and ICT education which is well worth a look if you missed it.
Kirsty Wark introduced the package with these words: “Once we were world leaders in the burgeoning computer games industry, now we are disappearing down a vortex in the face of innovative policies in places like Canada...nobbled by an education system which is not very good at teaching you about computers”.
I think any talk of UK software “disappearing down a vortex” is demonstrably wide of the mark, but the argument that our industry’s continuing growth could be jeopardised if we don’t face up to the risk of future demand for staff drastically outstripping supply is absolutely vital.
Eidos life chair Ian Livingstone suggests in the report that the reason for that not enough young people coming into software is ICT lessons overwhelmingly focused on what he calls “useful, but boring” skills like PowerPoint and Excel - vital skills in the modern workplace, but inadequate in terms of growing our software workforce, and potentially off-putting to young people considering careers in our sector.
At Sunderland Software City we’ve often compared horror stories about some of us excitedly signed up for IT GCSEs inspired by Street Fighter 2 and Sensible Soccer (I’m probably showing our ages there) but quitting to do pottery after spent three terms organising a School Ski Trip using Word - so it’s hugely disappointing to see similar frustrations being voiced by young people in the report.
This is why we think our work with local schools and colleges both to make sure their curricula meets the needs of the growing North East software industry and to inspire local young people to consider careers in software is so important – which is why we’ve recently expanded our operation in this area with the recruitment of our new Community Engagement and Education Manager Helen Ross.
The government does seem to recognise our industry’s needs with recent talk of making IT lessons more focused on programming and software design and less on basic computer literacy.
This is certainly a big step in the right direction. Of course every industry group thinks our national prospects would be improved if space was made in the national curriculum to meet our exact needs - if the government listened to everyone kids would probably have to be in school 20 hours a day! - but as the report concludes, the prize at stake here is “jobs and growth in the industries of the future”
But it is not just a case of us sitting back and waiting for the government to take action. All of us have a role to play in inspiring and supporting fresh talent into our industry, and if you’d be interested in talking about how we can work together to do that, please drop Helen a line.
Check out the piece yourself here - it starts about 30 minutes in.
David Dunn is Chief Operating Officer of Sunderland Software City
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