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Computing curriculum will not meet needs of industry, research warns

The new computing curriculum does not go far enough to properly prepare young people for the future world of work in the technology and engineering industries, new research warns.

Teachers, parents and employers should not assume the new computing curriculum, which was introduced in September, will act as a “panacea” for the growing skills gap between education and the world of work, it adds.

The study, undertaken by Julian Sefton-Green of the London School of Economics on behalf of technology charity Nominet Trust, suggests that students will need to take part in extra-curricular classes, competitions, coding clubs and digital summer camps if they are to have the necessary skills to compete for work.

“School alone will not prepare young people to be successful... We need to support non-formal and informal digital-making experiences if we are to ensure young people benefit,” the document states.

“The link between learning to code and employability is unproven and unclear,” it adds.

The new computing curriculum, introduced by the then education secretary Michael Gove, was given major backing from the likes of tech giants Google and Microsoft when it was announced back in 2012. 

According to the report, 750,000 “digitally skilled” workers will be needed by 2017, but many young people who show flair with digital skills do not take their interests further as they are confused over what job opportunities are open to them.

Schools, the research adds, should also do more to promote “digital creativity” and go beyond just “coding in the classroom”.

The report states: “The introduction of the new computing curriculum is a significant step forward, but learning can’t be confined to the computing classroom. Schools must be given the support and resources to take a holistic approach to digital creativity.”

Mr Sefton-Green, principal research fellow at the London School of Economics, who led the research, said there was not enough information of how so-called “digital makers” – those who create digital products, such as games and apps – find their way into their jobs.

“We still have little understanding of the link between how young people learn to use digital technology and the careers they will eventually pursue when they leave education. This report demonstrates there’s no ‘one size fits all’ strategy, and that the progression of a digital learner is not linear. We as a nation need to go beyond the school gates to fulfil our digital education needs.”

Annika Small, CEO of Nominet Trust, added that, too often, careers in the tech industry were viewed as the “domain of geeks” huddled in computer labs.

“But digital skills are increasingly pivotal to art, fashion, film and music, as well as to entrepreneurship,” she said.”

“We need industry role models and mentors to inspire young people to become the next generation of digital makers. We need schools and parents to recognise the potential of digital skills as the foundation for a wide range of jobs and careers.”

Related stories: 

Jimmy Wales fears nine years of computing will be too much for pupils - 28 September 2014

Fears mount over readiness to teach new computing curriculum - 13 November 2013

How to master the new primary computing curriculum - 1 October 2014  

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