CBR gets reaction from experts from Salesforce, Hitachi Data Systems, SAS, Capgemini and the Open University on the tech passes and fails of the UK’s A-levels.
6. Tech is not just about academics
Matthew Leach, Marketing, Circus Street, commented:
"For me, the A-level results are important just as much due to the evident interest amongst candidates about the tech sector, as the results themselves
"For those that might be disappointed with their results, I would offer a word of reassurance. I believe that an enthusiasm for the job, a willingness to think on one’s feet and work hard at keeping up with change is at least as important for many tech sector employers as grades.
"I’d certainly struggle to recommend that candidates interested in rapidly changing subjects such as digital marketing, or software development, register for a traditional degree course – the teaching content could easily be three years out of date by the time they graduate.
"My advice for candidates is to research the job that they want, look for opportunities to build skills and gain relevant experience, and then contact possible employers directly to make your case.
"Be persistent, and consider the many ways to gain proficiencies and knowledge without running up mountains of debt, such as paid internships, online learning options, or IT-focused voluntary work."
7. Governments need to tailor the syllabus to tackle emerging technologies
Nigel Eastwood, CEO of New Call, said:
"Over the last five years, the number of A-level science and maths entries has increased by more than 38,000. That’s great news. But we’re still lagging behind many countries.
"The government and schools need to take a much longer-term view when it comes to tech education. When writing the syllabus they need to think 5, 10 or even 20 years into the future. They need to work hand-in-hand with business to focus on emerging technologies, and find out what skills our young people will need.
"Schools also need put some real, concerted emphasis on practical skills. Often A-level courses only concentrate on the high-level stuff – the theory – without giving students the all-important hands-on experience.
Young people need to learn how to program and put together hardware. They also need to pick up more fundamental skills like being able to understand a business strategy, turning up to work on time, developing ideas from scratch and being able to work in a team.
"Finally, I think there’s still a really important role for vocational on-the-job training in the tech sector. I would encourage more schools and colleges to create links with local tech businesses who can offer their students some hands-on experience. Nothing can beat it."
8. The fundamentals are not enough
James Blake, CEO of smart social data tech company Hello Soda said:
"Although coding is now part of the curriculum, they are not teaching the latest technologies. For example, we code in Scala, not Java. Meaning we have to recruit Europe-wide for our data analytics and development engineers.
"There is an incorrect perception, in my view, that to teach basic coding is enabling Britain to compete in the tech space. We shouldn’t be teaching basic coding, we should be teaching the newest technologies.
"Education is the great equaliser and the future of our country, yet we accept a lack of focus on the core components that will make us, as a technology economy, function properly.
"We offer subjects such as Mathematics, Creative Science and Functional Programming. So why hasn’t our education system caught up with new programming methodologies such as Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Sentiment Analysis?
"These are the future technologies that will allow us to move from a low-skilled service economy to a high-tech, high-value technology economy.
"This is Britain’s only way of competing in the 21st century, as we can’t compete in manufacturing with low-wage economies. We should embrace it and use it to prepare the next generation so they can get jobs in our changing economy but also so they can drive our economic success too."
9. STEM students will benefit the whole of society
Ian Parslow, SVP at MTI Technology, comments:
"The UK government previously emphasised the importance of STEM subjects as a ‘top priority’ for schools. In fact, this major push was led by none other than David Cameron himself. The goal was to enable future generations to be equipped to compete with the global talent that is now available.
"The reality is that STEM subject uptake has seen a considerable drop in recent times. A greater focus on these subjects in schools and universities will be most welcome for enterprises as a whole in the UK.
"IT companies will not be sole benefactors. The general adoption of IT in all areas of business and the reliance that is placed on it for the everyday running of a company means that all companies stand to win from a constant flow of skilled STEM graduates.
"The government should be making entry to STEM careers a more attractive proposition for young people currently choosing their subjects to study. Perhaps there should be more in the form of incentives from the government similar to the grants and bursaries available for teachers and nurses."
10. Digital natives will drive UK progress
Mark Horneff, the Managing Director and co-founder of Kuato Studios, says:
"Rather than upskilling current workers, the focus must lie in inspiring young digital natives; undoubtedly, this engagement starts at school.
"Thankfully, computing replaced ICT last year in the UK national curriculum, preparing new generations of students for future careers in a digital economy. Moreover, by including computing in the curriculum across schools nationwide, students from all social backgrounds can benefit from these career possibilities.
"Today’s results reveal for the first time the impact of this curriculum overhaul: entries for computing A-Level are up a whopping 30% compared with last year, with 36.4% achieving A*-B grades.
"Crucially, coding in classrooms isn’t about turning everyone into top programmers; instead, the aim is to equip pupils with tools to craft digital solutions to future problems.
"Nonetheless, there’s still more work to be done at schools to future-proof the economy. More women are taking computing than last year, yet men still vastly outnumber them. To optimise the candidate pool for pivotal jobs in the tech sector, we need to maximise the range of available candidates, which means encouraging more women.
"Additionally, the more vivid the learning stimulus, the more likely students will engage in the experience – cue the importance of educational gaming, which facilitates engagement in less formal learning environments, both inside and outside of the classroom."