Category Archives: youth unemployment

Tech North’s Northern Digital Jobs Strategy

Executive summary

The ‘digital skills crisis’ is never far from the headlines in most digital economies across the world today. Companies in the UK say they need ‘talent’ more than anything else to help them grow – and they need it yesterday.

Likewise, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ concept continues to gather both positive media mentions and probing questions in near-equal measure. Regional groupings in the North now span the public and private sector, looking at everything from infrastructure to education within increasingly formalised structures. These groups are currently arming themselves with the information and supporters they need to cement the success of this political project.

At Tech North, one thing we wanted to understand was how we might solve our region’s skills challenges, in order to shore up the North’s future. Unlike a city like New York, which leads the world’s innovation measures because its political leadership is willing and able to act on this issue, the North has no one leader and is instead a patchwork of local governance with little or no control over education.

We know that digital jobs pay more, but from our work with the IPPR North on its Devo Digital skills report, we also know that all of the North’s regions have substantial digital skills gaps for those workers educated to undergraduate level or equivalent.

But our region kickstarted the industrial revolution, is the home of cooperative business, led the women’s suffrage movement and created the first computer – which makes a great basis for the North to lead on building a collaborative and diverse digital sector.

And with good salaries, great jobs, jump-for-joy house prices and awesome quality of life, our region has things that many other cities across the world simply cannot offer.

This Northern Digital Jobs Strategy has been created using research from Manchester’s Centre for Local Economic Strategies and the IPPR North think tank to create eight themes under which our efforts can be grouped.

These eight themes were then consulted on with the community at Tech North’s Digital Jobs Action Summit, supported by EY. The document explores a range of ideas for local, regional and national initiatives for action brought forward at the event. They include creating a regional digital skills network, building a regional digital jobs portal and launching a jobs campaign.

Tech North is set to launch a new platform that aims to provide the most accurate measure of the scale of the ‘digital skills gap’, by number, vacancy type and skill.

This will help policymakers, employers, parents, teachers and learners make decisions about how and where they invest their time or money.

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Zero-hours Contracts – The Underemployed

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius

Imagine a world where everyone springs out of bed each morning knowing they are heading to a workplace they love.

It’s not easy.

Lives lived on the rubbish tips in Lagos, in clothes factories in Bangladesh and on the manufacturing lines of our best-loved tech brands in China leave an incredible stain on our consumer conscience.

And even in the UK, one of the richest countries in the world, the zero-hours contracts that have become the norm for upward of 1m people working everywhere from local councils to large chains, are another blemish. They leave many employees uncertain, uninvested in and ultimately underemployed.

Consider this: strolling to work knowing that representatives directly elected by you are happily working alongside those chosen by your employer. You’re looking ahead to your first sailing holiday, taken at the retreat owned by your firm, and your future is assured by the company pension scheme. In fact, you even know you’ll get six months off, paid , when you reach 25 years – who wouldn’t stay at a place like this? And in the meantime, you’re able to take paid leave to work within your community. Not to mention, your company bonus has been on average an extra 15 per cent of your salary for the last five years.

A fantasy? A work of fiction? Or one of the UK’s most well-known stores?

Unlike many workers in the UK, this is a reality for employees, not just ‘partners’ working at John Lewis, one of the UK’s largest chains of department stores. A successful British brand, and an employee-owned business, not failing, but actually bringing in more profit than many years pre-recession, in spite of, or rather because everyone has a stake in its success.

Profit rose too at McDonald’s this year, increasing 3.7 per cent to $1.4bn. The same McDonald’s that has used zero-hours contracts since it rocked up here in 1974, underemploying 90 per cent of its 92,000-strong workforce. At Sports Direct, profits soared 40 per cent to more than £200m. But 90 per cent of its 23,000 staff, those working with zero guarantee of hours or workplace benefits, won’t be sharing in it. The Queen’s very own Buckingham Palace has likewise taken people on with no guarantee of work and pay. Although the nature of the latter’s jobs are seasonal, surely managers at each of these large employers can be sure of how many people they need from one week to the next?

Zero-hours contracts, the increase in part-time and casual work, the failure of the minimum wage to deliver anything other than the bare minimum and a lack of a true living wage are symptoms of a sick system. They symbolise a short-sightedness where cynical employers see their workers as a cost, not a valuable resource, merely something that could one day be replaced by a machine.

We know that executive pay and bonuses go up in both the corporate and public sector, while the gap between the rich and the poor widens and 700,000 public sector workers are laid to rest. Agency staff, guaranteed no paid holiday, sick days, bonuses, job security, or even working hours, obligingly take their place. ‘At least I have a job’, they think.

This is typified in care work, where the modus operandi should, of course, be caring, but instead councils cut corners by buying cheap private sector services where workers are badly paid, poorly trained and are ultimately replaceable. Those at the top call it ‘flexible’, they say it’s a ‘buyers’ market’ for employers – workers are a commodity to be bought and sold after all – so turnover of staff doesn’t matter. There are plenty more where they came from.

New Labour called this globalisation, while the Coalition is now pitting ‘us’ (British Nationals) against ‘them’ (Illegal Immigrants) with vitriolic ‘Go Home’ messaging, omitting the fact that we welcomed in immigrant workers to ensure there would always be someone more desperate to do it for less. Meanwhile our education system, failing on maths and languages, left us ill-prepared to be able to go and do work elsewhere.

Our global economy failed. That’s what the Conservatives have been blaming on Labour for the last three years while further deconstructing workers’ rights and our public institutions. Labour has looked on, knowing full well it sold out the hard-working people that made its name and bought into the kind of corporate thinking that helped get us to where we are today.

No one has the right to a job, many will argue, much less one they like, but every unemployed person could become the next benefit claimant, the next person seeking help for depression from the NHS or the next crime statistic. The next member of the ‘undeserving poor’ scrounging from the tax payer.

There is no getting away from the fact that the UK’s economy has a few broken cogs that have contributed to the failed system, like the minor detail that many big corporations don’t pay taxes. And, the in-work benefits system – a supplement for low wages – is used by more people than the amount spent on welfare for the unemployed. A policy which incidentally also serves as good ploy to ensure unemployment figures are within ‘acceptable’ levels come election time.

Perversely, our rotten economy actually depends on people having money to spend. These same businesses that pay their workers poorly need consumers to be able go out and buy things just as much as their staff need security in work. With wages held down and little confidence in the future, the tills are unlikely to be ringing as loudly as shareholders and pension fund managers would like.

Like the environment, tax avoidance and housing, our politicians have failed us on ensuring we have the jobs that we need, and we have, knowingly or not, left ourselves with very little means of protection. While the Trade Union Congress has recently analysed the phenomenon of the casualisation of labour, falling union membership and successive government attacks on organised labour have left them in little position to bolster a meaningful fight back.

For every John Lewis, it appears, there are many more McDonalds. And there is always a high-paid exec who argues that their industry will go elsewhere if pay and bonuses are curbed, while millions have to wait silently for a call into work that might never come.

We consider ourselves world leaders, but how can we lead the world’s workers into secure and meaningful work when we can’t even guarantee it for our own? The Government not only tells us to get on our bikes and find a job, but also knows that there may be zero work when we get there, even if we’ve signed a contract.

In a world where a contract means nothing, where work means nothing, where next?

Illustration by Sky Nash

Written for Let’s Be Brief.

Q&A with novelist Polly Courtney for Let’s Be Brief

With her first novel, Golden Handcuffs, Polly Courtney turned her back on a “so-called” high-flying career in the City to expose the toxic culture of the industry she worked in.
After this early self-publishing success she won what looked like her dream contract with HarperCollins but quickly found herself part of another corporate machine. Polly very publicly walked out on the deal and has just self-published her latest book, a fictional look at the UK riots in the summer of 2011. And there’s even a movie on the cards.
Q) When did you start writing and why?
It happened by accident. I was working as an investment banker in the city, becoming more and more miserable by the day. I was so disillusioned with my so-called ‘high flying’ career that I felt compelled to write about it so that the world could see the futile work, the hierarchy, the sexism, the greed, narcissism and toxic culture. (This was back in the early 2000s and at that time there was still a perception that banking was an industry that young people should aspire to work in.) Publishers weren’t convinced that readers would want to know about this dark, dirty side, so they suggested I ‘glam it up a bit’. This was the opposite of my goal, so I decided to publish the novel myself. It went on to become one of my best-selling novels, Golden Handcuffs.
Q) Your books are on quite controversial topics – can you tell us a bit about them? And what’s the deal with your (ex) publisher? 
I love to expose some kind of injustice in society. My latest novel is written from the perspective of a disenfranchised 15-year-old and set in the build-up to the August riots, covering the various frustrations that led to so many young people taking to the streets in 2011. Poles Apart is about a Polish migrant and the unspoken prejudice she faces in everyday life. Having successfully self-published Golden Handcuffs and Poles Apart, I was thrilled to get a publishing contract with an imprint of HarperCollins. I didn’t realise at the time, but in signing this deal, I was effectively pushing my writing career in a new direction – and not a direction I wanted to go in.
Q) So what changed?
It felt as though the very thing that made my books different (their ‘social conscience’) was being swept aside as book after book came out like mass market fiction with a ‘chick lit’ title and cover. The final straw was when my fifth novel, a story of a young woman grappling with sexism and ‘lad mag culture’, was given the title It’s a Man’s World and adorned with a trashy cover featuring mainly legs that was cloned from a movie poster. I decided to publicly walk out on my publisher at the book launch and announce my return to self-publishing. When I did, lots of authors got in touch to say ‘me too’!
Q) What project have you done that you are most proud of and why?
Feral Youth, my latest book – partly because it was such a collaborative effort between me and everyone involved, but mainly because of the subject matter. It was a big step for me, writing from the perspective of an angry teenage girl from South London. I was advised against it; people told me I could never make it authentic – but I was determined to try. I think Alesha’s story is an important one that needs to be told.
Q) How important is independent thinking and doing and where do you get it from?
The idea of doing something ‘because that’s what everyone does’ makes no sense to me. Everyone wants to earn lots of money. I don’t. Everyone wants a publishing deal. I don’t. Everyone likes to read books that are just like all the other books out there. Really? Well, I don’t.
My dad had his own business, which evolved as I was growing up, so perhaps I got my aptitude for taking calculated risks from him. My parents have always instilled in me that the most important thing in life is to be happy and frankly, I’m not happy when I’m just following the herd.
Q) What is the key issue for you right now?
It’s the message I’m trying to put out with Feral Youth: that we need to think harder about young people and the stereotypes we’re shown in the press. They’re not ‘mindless criminals’ and they’re not ‘feral’. They’re people and they’re a product of their experiences – so why don’t we focus on making those experiences good?
Q) What’s next?
Feral Youth the movie. Seriously!
::
Polly Courtney’s Q&A is part of the State of Independence series
State of Independence Pop-up Island | 22-28th July 2013
Unit 17 | Boxpark Shoreditch | 2-4 Bethnal Green Rd | London | E1 6GY

Facebook – The Daily Telegraph of the Digital Age?

Born in 1988, I’m slap bang in the middle of Generation Y, or the Millennials. Or even Gen C. Which isn’t actually a generation, but more of a state of mind, according to Google. This 20 year period covers people born between 1977 to 1996, or alternatively 1982 to 2001, depending on who you ask. Simple. 

But the rate of technological change over the last 10 years has seen Myspace giving way to Facebook and then Twitter then Pinterest then – you get the picture.  I’m part of the begrudging, but enslaved Facebook faithful. I text and use Whatsapp. Email and Twitter are both indispensable. 


So can you really say that someone born in 1998 uses technology in the same way as me?  We decided to find out, so we interviewed two 14-year-olds, a boy and girl, to see how they are using the devices they own and share. Surely those with digital in their DNA will run rings around me, a mere digital native? 


Surprisingly, or not for a couple of teenagers, they were as excited about tech as they are about everything, which is rather little, but they clearly can’t live without it. 


Five messaging apps in one day 


Freya, disgruntled owner of a failing BlackBerry, as well as an iPod, hops between the two devices depending on the task at hand. That means BBMing and chatting with her friends and following funny accounts on Twitter when her main handset allows. She switches when she wants to use Instagram and Snapchat – for chatting to people without BBM, and the “funny pictures” that make it better than Whatsapp. All on a daily basis. Add to that Skype, Facetime and ooVoo – for those urgent group video chats – and you’d think they’d have run out of things to say.  


She uses a computer “if I have to”. And Facebook? “I deactivated my account. It’s boring.” I feel a twinge of sadness for my twisted old friend. So what would Ben have to say about a platform that has changed my ability to communicate as much as it has my concept of privacy? “I just left my profile. It’s boring,” he confirmed. Ouch. 


No TV, no computer, iPad gathers dust 


Ben’s a lucky iPhone 5 user, and also shares an iPad 2 with his brother, but he doesn’t use it. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t use a computer except at school for course work. Nah, I don’t have email. I tend to just use my phone. And that’s really just for apps.” Like Freya, he uses a combination of messaging services, iMessage, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter every day. When people don’t have iMessage, he texts people.  


Uninterested in the latest games consoles, he plays Clash of the Clans four times a week, where he sees ads for games in-app, but just ignores them. Freya identifies 4Pics1Word as a game that’s been doing the rounds at school, in the past she would have clicked on the “silly pop-up banners”, but not anymore, she says. Apart from that, neither consumes a great deal of content other than funny things their friends allegedly spew out all day long. Even wearable tech doesn’t really strike a chord with our teens. 


Battery life an inter-generation concern 


So what’s the best thing about their phone? “Being in touch with everybody, otherwise you’d just bored out of your head and have nothing to do,” Ben said. “And music I guess. When you’re travelling a long way.” He admits Maps is useful “but I don’t really use it,” he says. “I can talk to friends I don’t see often and it entertains me,” Freya adds. Both identify battery life as the killer of their mass communication lifestyle. 


Ben also says load times between apps are annoying, as well as the sign-up process when connecting to wi-fi. He suggests making it automatic. Freya, a lone Spotify Premium owner at school, thinks it would be good if more than one person could listen to the music service. But she complains it takes too long to get new music. 


Tech jobs?? 


And despite this heavy usage, both have little knowledge of the fact that they could make a career out of all this. Phones are banned in school, and will be confiscated, they say. When they do IT, Freya admits she “doesn’t really get it,” while Ben says “they don’t really talk about technology jobs at school.” So. Facebook is about to become an antique, at least in developed markets, facing similar problems in the future as the printed press does today. Email’s days could be numbered, and while there is no dominant messaging platform for this Chat Generation, the medium is certainly smartphones for the forseeable. 


Let’s hope it’s not too late to funnel this constant connectivity and conversation into something useful. Lol?


Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:  http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/facebook-%E2%80%93-daily-telegraph-digital-age#MmHiAA4isLQZlmjD.99

Generation Wireless – Will women and unconnected majority lose out?

Generation Y Millennials – aged 18 to 30 – will be led by a group of tech savvy, switched on young people who believe they can change the world, says Telefonica survey of 12,000
Telefónica UK has released the results of the largest ever global survey of Generation Y Millennials, broadly seen as those aged 18 to 30 that have lived most of their lives with access to the internet. The mobile operator, owner of O2, spoke to more than 12,000 people across 27 countries in six regions. 
Given the tech focus of the report, it is clear that many see the global internet revolution as empowering, useful and necessary for future personal and global success. The research found that 76 per cent of this group now owns a smartphone, highest is in Asia thanks to hugely tech-savvy populations in Japan and South Korea, at 83 per cent, and lowest in Central and Eastern Europe at 60 per cent. Look to your left and right. No matter what your political leaning, and whether you think it is always a positive thing, it is clear that we are always-on, media gorgers. 
Much of what they found won’t come as a shock. In North America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, all of these young people agreed that the economy is the number one issue. In Latin America and the Middle East and Africa the answers differed – with social inequality and terrorism topping each list respectively.
A significant majority, 63 per cent of Millennials globally, believe it is difficult for their generation to progress from school to adult life. With unemployment rates in many of the countries surveyed highest among 16 to 24s, this comes as little surprise. And news of the consequences of ageing populations has clearly reached our young people too – 39 per cent expect to have to continue to work indefinitely and not have enough money to retire. When asked whether they thought employment was a right or a privilege, 55 per cent said that having a decent job was the former versus 45 per cent who picked the latter. A bit of a leading question? It is an economic imperative – we all have to eat. More positively, and hopefully without delusion, 68 per cent of those surveyed believe that they have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur.
Telefónica claims to have identified a new kind of elite – 11 per cent of Millennials globally – who are not defined by metrics like socioeconomic status, but by their access to technology and opportunity. While their immediate priorities are the same – family, school and friends come first – 44 per cent of these leaders believe access to technology is important to success, compared to 30 per cent overall. “These people are at the cutting edge of technology and highly interested in what happens around them from a political standpoint,” said José María Álvarez-Pallete, COO of Telefónica on launching the results. “Politicians around the world must see that technology is going to influence the future. But this is not just for government but for business leaders too,” he said. 
Speaking in a keynote at the launch, Julian Genachowski, former chairman of the US telecoms regulator the FFC and head of Obama’s tech strategy during the 2008 election, said that the world is now engaged in a “global bandwidth race”. As healthcare, tech, government and people move increasingly online, countries are now concerned with giving companies and citizens the quickest access. But given that only one in six of the world’s population actually has access to the internet, 1bn people, it is clear that socioeconomic status, which gives people access to technology and opportunity, is likely to still dictate who the winners will be.  And while many young people are switched on, politically speaking, as Álvarez-Pallete mentioned, many aren’t. Recycling is the acceptable face of the green movement in developed nations but sustainability goes out the window when you see flights to Barcelona for £49. Meanwhile, literacy and access to basic human rights and services, let alone internet, are also hopelessly lacking in large parts of the world too. 
The UK’s young people appear to be are more tech savvy than their global counterparts, the survey found, with 49 per cent here saying they have an excellent knowledge of technology compared to just 30 per cent worldwide. Tech is now seen as more important than any other subject, with 25 per cent saying it is critical to future success, compared to economics and science both at 18 per cent or languages with just eight per cent. There are certainly jobs to be had in tech, in fact, there is a skills shortage. On top of that, 76 per cent believe technology makes it easier to get a job – many jobs are only advertised online  – so job search, application and even doing many of your average Western jobs is an increasingly digital pursuit.
A “new gender gap”, as if we need one, was also outlined by Álvarez-Pallete, with men around the world much more likely to consider themselves at the cutting edge of tech – 80 per cent vs 69 per cent. Those that believe that tech is the most important factor to ensuring future success also saw a contrast – 42 per cent vs 29 per cent. It appears that women, yet again, are likely to be left behind.
But why would a company like Telefónica want to know just what little old us think of our future anyway?
“For a company like us,” Álvarez-Pallete said, “we need to understand what’s going to happen for our industry and for our customers. This is the largest technological revolution in human history and Millennials are the drives.  We deeply believe that we need to understand what’s going on to have an idea of what the future will look like.”
Take that to be altruistic, after all Telefónica has its own start-up accelerator and is working with the EU to create a young entrepreneurial community of 300,000 people, along with many other worthwhile initiatives. Or look at it with a keen eye. We are a huge target market for advertisers and will continue to be so into our later years – more than 90m of Telefonica’s 316m customers worldwide is a Millennial. Companies like this need our custom, our data and actually depend on our success. But given how events have unfolded around PRISM and GCHQ, I’m just surprised they didn’t have access to all of our vital statistics already!
My favourite stat from the report was that 89 per cent of everyone surveyed believes that the best days of their country are yet to come. In a world of economic uncertainty where we fumble from one political problem to the next, I’d like to hope that they’re right!

Job Centre: With all eyes on Tech City, where are the mobile job opportunities and do we have the skills to fill them?

According to the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, established by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board, the IT, software and digital content sectors are worth £100bn to the UK economy. This is larger per head than any other country in the world and could represent 10 per cent of UK GDP by 2015. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in January, EU commissioner for technology, Neelie Kroes, said that Europe would have 1m new tech jobs by 2016 and 2m by 2020, with up to a fifth of these in the UK. Worryingly though, IBM’s 2012 Tech Trends report found that just 1 in 10 UK organisations believes it has the skills to use advanced technologies, including mobile computing, cloud computing, and social business. Meanwhile, 73 per cent of educators and students said there is a major or moderate gap in their institution’s ability to meet demand for these skills.  

PM David Cameron has announced a £50m regeneration of East London’s Old Street tech hub, Silicon Roundabout, which is due for completion in 2016. While this will certainly create an impressive landmark to showcase digital leadership, little commitment has been made to creating a suitably skilled British workforce. And in any event, it may already be too late.  

With some of the biggest media companies in the world – the likes of Skype, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and BSkyB – all expanding their mobile operations in London, and each requiring large engineering teams of hundreds of people, the competition is already fierce for mobile talent. Is the UK up to the job? 

“Our candidates think mobile is a really interesting opportunity, particularly around M2M and the chance to use mobile technology to make people’s lives better, whether that’s through medical and health or utility,” said Mark Long, director of future media recruitment company ABRS. “They are in a really good position – everyone from software engineers, UX designers, product managers – across the mobile platform, there are more jobs than candidates. If you’ve got the skills, there are loads of opportunities – if you’re a company trying to build this stuff, there is lots of competition.” 

Like the FT, Walmart and Deloitte, Thomson Reuters bought a London-based mobile dev firm, Apsmart, to shore up its mobile capacity. Bob Schukai, head of mobile at Thomson Reuters, says: “It’s not uncommon to just buy a mobile development company to take them completely off the market. You might never do anything with the product, you might just be doing it as a talent acquisition.  “It used to be about offshore versus inshore – that discussion has changed completely. It’s now about outsource versus insource. You can see a decline in numbers in the PC space and with that comes an insatiable demand for mobile talent. That’s a capability that companies need to create themselves and be able to instil across their organisation.”

 So, does the talent have to be bought or can you help grow it? Raj Day, group CSO for Telefónica in Latin America, was out running while considering his difficulty in finding innovative products, services and different ways of working. There was only one shop for digital innovation – Silicon Valley – and it was not only expensive to hire from but was also eating up some of his own digital talent. He passed an empty shop and thought ‘what would happen if we filled that full of startups?’ 

Three years and 13 countries later, the startup initiative Wayra is now established across Latin America, the US and the EU. Ann Parker heads up EU operations for the accelerator programme, and she says there is an abundance of talent. “The perception I had was that we would struggle to find that kind of talent and people willing to go and work in a startup in London,” she says. “We have found quite the reverse. We get a lot of people who have finished their degree but have decided that the corporate ladder isn’t for them. We also get lots of people in their mid-30s. People who’ve got life experience, who’ve made a few mistakes. That really helps.” 

While Telefónica says it does not intend to take any of the teams that it gives funding to into the business itself, startups like cloud service provider Cloud66 have become preferred partners and in return gain access to more than 300m customers. “If we want digital startups to contribute to the economy, everyone needs to be putting their hands in their pocket,” says Parker. “There’s room for us all.” 

Eric Van der Kleij, fintech entrepreneur and head of Level39, Tech City’s newest accelerator, believes that the financial crisis has given entrepreneurs and big business the opportunity to explore and create new technology together. “London and Europe are facing another challenge in the contraction of the financial services sector, which has previously represented up to 12.9 per cent of GDP if you include IT services,” he says. “It’s the innovators in tech and digital and creative that are going to form part of this replacement economic growth.  “You can imagine an idea being created at a hackathon that one day goes on to become a substantial banking mechanism for new, open, transparent banking. Now that is being made possible by the talent and by an environment that supports innovation – with a combination of support from organisations and government.” 

While this all sounds rather cosy, startups and big businesses are clearly in competition for great graduates. Some see a ‘brain drain’ as people choose big bucks in the City over the uncertainty of startup life. But Bob Schukai thinks the issue is more fundamental. “Five guys can build a product and beat you to market in a heartbeat. Big business is going to need that technology talent to be successful and compete at an enterprise level as well as at a consumer level. The challenge in the UK, like the US, is that neither are producing enough STEM grads. That’s where the real problem is.”

American-born Schukai has gone on record many times arguing that foreign graduates in the US should ‘have a green card stapled to their university certificate’ and he thinks much the same is required in the UK. “Anybody that graduates with an advanced technology degree should be given indefinite leave to remain in Britain. These are people that are going to be producing, going to be working in high paying jobs, contributing revenue to Inland Revenue.” 

Wayra’s Ann Parker, however, disagreed with the perception that tech graduates are the only people who can create entrepreneurial success. “Good ideas come from everywhere,” she said, “you don’t need to be a computer scientist to have a great idea for a startup and even if you are a great coder – it doesn’t mean you will be a successful entrepreneur.” 

So if it’s skilled digital workers we lack, why do we have an abundance of idle ‘digital natives’, 1m young people who commentators fear becoming a ‘lost generation’ excluded from employment into adult life? While 16-24-year-olds are never too far from Blackberry Messenger or Facebook, many, it appears, may not understand the opportunities in emerging technologies; the opportunity to become creators, rather than simply consumers. If you were born in the 1990s, the digital natives rather than older digital immigrants, can you help but take technology for granted? 
“’My brother said ‘stop being a waster, have a Sinclair ZX81 [released in 1981]’, and for the first time I felt completely empowered,” says Van der Kleij. “Today, the mobile phone, and especially the smartphone, has made technology incredibly accessible. So many more people understand how apps can solve problems in life and come up with solutions that previously would have required huge amounts of programming expertise. This exposure could catalyse them into entering the computing profession and maybe getting a computer science degree or even entering IT services.” 

With this tech-native generation coming of age in terms of their careers, what does the Government need to do to nurture growth? “The first thing I would say to Government,” Ann Parker at Wayra says, “would be to get more computer programming on the syllabus. People should learn it from age six or seven – do it like speaking French. There also needs to be more work on encouraging more entrepreneurial skills to be taught at school – understanding the concept of cash flow, knowing how much money you have in the bank and not spending more than that.” 

A number of organisations already work for free to excite young people about creating the technologies of the future, including Devcamp and Apps for Good. Reuters’ Schukai is also a mentor for Apps for Good, where participant schools spend a school term building an app from start to finish, with the winning team going on to have their app made for real.  “We think that this can become a feeder for large and small companies across Britain or creating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” he says. “We have more than 200 schools and it has become the benchmark programme, but I would love to see more engagement between business and schools.” 

There are many online courses, at minimum cost, as well as free resources that offer a real learning opportunity at a fraction of the debt promised by university. But is it too late by then? Courtney Boyd Myers, audience development director at London’s General Assembly, a tech education and events business, says businesses must work together with educators to help the education system keep up with the pace of change in the tech, digital and mobile industries. “Business both established and startup need to have the resources and knowledge in place to be continually learning, growing and developing in this space,” she says. “Our opportunity and our challenge is to figure out how we can build businesses that help people connect, increase access to healthcare, education and jobs, and provide an infrastructure to create further new businesses.”

So where are these 2m promised jobs of tomorrow going to be? Bob Schukai believes “app exhaustion” may have set in. “But there are other areas that are underexploited, such as health, fitness, and especially education,” he says. “You will see a lot more testing and evaluating jobs that didn’t really exist previously. People in the beginning just sort of built stuff and threw it out the door. You’ve also got to have people who write the automation programs, because the amount and number of mobile products you need to create isn’t going down it’s going up. Those people are eventually going to become developers themselves.”

So far, £6m was pledged in the Autumn Statement to train 3,000 people in technology roles and after intense pressure from the industry, Michael Gove’s controversial EBacc qualification – the education secretary’s proposed GCSE replacement – will now contain computer science as a fourth science option. Business and universities will be consulted in the development of the syllabus, Gove has said. 

But is this all too little too late in the global tech race? “Some of the most exciting ideas come from innovators who have had no formal training. They are not restricted by the fetters of corporate and traditional education,” said Van der Kleij. “But any investment that we can make in education that is more appropriate to the skills that we need at the moment and that we’ll need in the future – any investment that we can make in that is a worthwhile thing to do.”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:  http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/job-centre#ZaiA8MTBVxewdhiq.99

Siemens and UK Government Launch Learning Hub to Plug Digital Skills Gap

Siemens has launched an education and careers platform to help inspire more young people in the UK to become engineers.

The digital hub has been ‘explicitly designed to encourage young people to engage with engineering and manufacturing related subjects’, with many software, electronic and mechanical engineers now going on to work in the mobile industry.

The company is working with the Cabinet Office, Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to open the education portal for teachers, students and parents to access relevant information. It will be rolled out to 5,000 schools by 2014, aiming to reach more than 1.95m pupils in the first year and 4.5m by 2016.

Siemans launched its first mobile phone in 1985 and released more than 100 handsets before it sold this arm of its business in 2005.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/siemens-and-uk-government-launch-learning-hub-plug-digital-skills-gap