Today's GCSE results in ICT are bad news for the technology industry, according to some industry watchers, who have called for more action to close the widening skills gap.
There was a slight drop in the amount of students passing GCSE ICT with grades A*-C down from 68.8 per cent last year to 67.9 per cent this year. In GCSE computing, the pass rate for the same grades dropped from 65.1 per cent to 60.4 per cent over the same period.
Buhwan Kaushik, CEO of software deployment firm Spectromax, said the results show the UK is failing to effectively educate computing in schools.
"I was dismayed to see such a significant drop in GCSE computing results," he said. "It's woeful, quite frankly. This is the UK's next generation of tech-entrepreneurs and coders, made up of digital natives no less, but we still can't find effective ways of teaching them the skills they need to enter a thriving digital economy via formal academic training.
"As the IT skills gap continues to grow worldwide, we need to make sure the UK doesn't get left behind. Enthusing students to learn computing and educating them effectively will be a huge step towards making this happen long term. There's simply no quick fix. We also need more IT programmes outside of school and university, and better opportunities for on the job IT training too."
Automation vendor Chef Software's technical practice manager, Mandi Walls, said today's GCSE results are "very bad news" for the future of UK tech businesses.
"Early analysis of today's GCSE results indicates science and technology subjects have now seen the largest drop in A* to A pass rates since 2011. It also shows 90 per cent of students in subjects such as engineering and computing are male. This is very bad news for the future of UK tech businesses," she said.
"Tech skills are increasingly important in all industries because more organisations are becoming software driven. Yet the nation's IT skills gap remains. How quickly organisations can bring in the talent they need is a key factor as to whether their digital transformation efforts succeed or fail."
This comes at a time when recruitment in the tech industry has hit a rut, with analyst Empirica predicting that unfilled digital jobs in Europe will reach 756,000 by 2020.
Lawrence Jones (pictured), CEO at UKFast, said he thinks the skills shortage is as "bad as it has ever been – maybe even worse."
"Technology is moving so quickly that it is quite difficult for schools to keep up with that sort of pace," he said. "I can see people's frustrations and I think schools are going to have to adapt and find new ways of managing and keeping up with the pace. It has always been a business's job to skill up the people once they come to work for you anyway. So as long as they are being taught how to read and write, which they are, I think there are things we can teach kids."
Jones added that he believes apprenticeships are the quickest way to encourage people to work in the technology industry.
"I think apprenticeships work very well," he explained. "You get more and more kids coming straight out into businesses. I think businesses need to get better at their apprenticeship programmes. At the minute they just see it as cheap labour."
Jones announced earlier this year he would be doubling the apprenticeship scheme targets for the year. UKFast has a £4.5m training facility at its Manchester base.
"We've got five full-time teachers at UKFast now, which is unusual. But we have about 60 apprenticeships now, and around five or six per cent of the people at UKFast are either in an apprenticeship or have been on one. Some of those are even running departments," added Jones.
Another way of encouraging young people to consider careers in technology are clubs such as CoderDojo, teaching schoolchildren how to code, create websites and build apps.
UKFast has its own coding club, which Jones said sees children as young as four learning about technology.
"If you make tech interesting and exciting, people are going to be more engaged with it. The problem isn't just in schools; universities are behind the curve in many ways as well. That is down to how on earth you keep up with the pace of technology nowadays. It is difficult for a business, let alone a public sector organisation like a school," he said.
"We underestimate just how clever kids can be. Mozart was writing music at three or four years old. If you introduce a small child to something, they learn better. They can adopt things much quicker than adults can."
Jane Dickenson, senior manager for business development at CompTIA, siad she thinks school projects like coding clubs and the Barefoot programme - which involves industry experts helping primary school teachers with how best to teach students IT - are the way to close the skills gap.
She explained: "The IT industry does suffer from a large skills shortage. Burning Glass's 2016 UK labour insight study said there were about 300,000 job openings at any one time. It's about encouraging more entrants into the industry and upskilling people who are already there. It very much starts in the school system."
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