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.
The release of this year’s A-level results sparked much interest the tech sector, with maths entries rising 20 percent since 2010 and entries in science and maths (STEM) subjects have increased by more than 38,000 since 2010, up 17.3 per cent.
1. Firms need to work with the education system to improve training
Arosha Bandara, Senior Lecturer at the Open University:
"With today’s results showing the number of students in STEM rising, including a 12% rise in those opting to study Computer Sciences, the education system must in turn step up its game to provide students with the fundamentals of knowledge and analytical skills for tackling today’s threats, as well as being able to adapt and respond to the security challenges of the future.
"For companies within the tech industry, progress would be to prioritise the relevant training for employees and even provide internships for potential employees and graduates.
"By providing a channel through which to mentor students, companies can create their own pipeline for the future and help entice students to the profession.
"This, in conjunction with the impending government relaxation of the Equivalent or Lower Qualification (ELQ) policy next month presents a chance for people in full time work to not only build on their own skills by making it easier and more affordable to obtain the relevant IT qualifications, and enabling them to move into this area.
"It also creates more skilled people for businesses to draw from which is likely to signal a significant step in alleviating the IT skills shortage.
2. Connecting business and technology is vital for growth
Richard Gadd, Managing Director UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems comments:
"It’s exciting to see the prospect of new STEM talent from this year’s school leavers.
"For young people planning or beginning their careers, it’s important to remember that careers in STEM are no longer about being the ‘techies’ stuck in the basement. With new technologies redefining the jobs market, the people with tech acumen will be those placed at the forefront of business innovation and integral to defining strategy.
"It’s the skill of connecting business and technology that’s so vital for driving growth and is fast earning places at the board table. UK businesses have been concerned that we face a skills deficit in supplying the next generation of workers with the right knowledge and skills to thrive in a data driven world.
"To ensure the UK technology scene is an inspiring hub of great talent that can ignite economic success, businesses also have an important role to play.
"By working with the government and offering more entry-level jobs with on-site training, where individuals are equipped with the right skills to pursue a career in IT, businesses can help bridge the IT skills gap and ensure they can recruit the right people for the future."
3. Time to fill those skills gaps
Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director of SAS UK & Ireland:
"It is pleasing to see a rise in exam entries for core STEM subjects like computing and maths. These subjects provide a fantastic pathway to the careers that will stimulate and grow our economy.
"The need for a rich mix of science, technology and mathematically minded talent is crucial to our competitiveness in the global information economy. The UK is the sixth biggest digital economy in Europe, but to sustain that position we must have a solid talent pool.
"Our research with The Tech Partnership suggests there will be approximately 56,000 job opportunities a year in 2020 for big data professionals, but that means we need to fill them! That’s why we need to continue to encourage take-up of STEM subjects. Otherwise, from a business analytics point of view, we are left with highly technical aircraft but not enough pilots to fly them."
"The opportunity to inform and nurture brilliant minds starts in the classroom by introducing today’s challenges and technology earlier in the learning process. This will better prepare tomorrow’s workforce for using data to make better, evidence-based decisions, so that UK businesses remain competitive."
4. More needs to be done in higher education
Nivedita Krishnamurthy, Senior Vice President, Head of Markets at Capgemini:
"There has been a record number of young people being accepted on university courses this year, which is a fantastic achievement and testament to the high calibre of academia being produced in the UK.
"The decision to continue into higher education is something that should be supported, however, we shouldn’t forget that university is not necessarily the best route for all young people, particularly those wishing to enter into an IT career.
"The traditional higher education path is eagerly encouraged by the majority of our schools in the UK, but after three to four years of study and thousands of pounds in fees, many students still lack core technical skills.
"An effective and valuable alternative is an apprenticeship programme which allows students to develop hands-on experience while working towards a full BSc degree, and earning a salary.
"Nurturing young talent through programmes such as our own Degree Apprenticeship is key to the health of the digital economy. What’s more, the earlier we develop academic and practical IT skills, the greater position the UK will be in to compete on the global stage."
5. A rise in maths students is the start of a broader STEM surge
Andrew Lawson, UK Managing Director of Salesforce, said:
"It’s really encouraging to see that the number of students taking maths A-level has risen, and I’m pleased that it remains the most popular A-level subject.
"I believe that with the curriculum changes that the government introduced last September, to focus on computer science (and in particular programming/coding), we’ll start to see even higher numbers of students taking all of the STEM-related A-levels in future.
"Although there’s been a drop in the number of science papers awarded the top A* and A grades, I don’t think we should worry.
"I think instead we should look at this as an opportunity to continue our work encouraging students to explore STEM-related degree options and careers — and to help this generation of students build the UK technology industry of tomorrow."