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Talking Digital - The Oliver Twins

Author: Shahneila Saeed

“Every industry now needs programmers…it is changing every industry, so the demand has sky rocketed”

The latest episode of the Digital Schoolhouse’s ‘Talking Digital’ series features games industry pioneers, and founders of Radiant Worlds, The Oliver Twins discussing the digital talent shortage in the UK and why it has never been as important as now to address the skills gap in order to secure the talent pipeline for future generations.

In the video, the brothers praise how the Digital Schoolhouse workshops ‘inspire kids to want to go to lessons, lessons where they’re actually learning to use this technology’ that will help them build successful careers in all areas of computing and tech – including making games.

Their concerns are particularly pertinent given the recent report on the UK Digital Crisis published by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The report highlights the current digital divide and estimates that 12.6m of the UK adult population lack basic digital literacy skills and approximately 5.8m people have never used the internet at all. In total, the skills gap is estimated to cost the UK digital economy £63bn a year.

The report also found that:

  • Only 35% of Computing/ICT teachers hold a relevant qualification
  • Only 70% of the required number of Computing teachers have been recruited by government
  • Almost 90% of new jobs require some digital skills
  • Despite the growing vacancies within tech companies and the increased demand, 13% of Computer Science students are still unemployed after graduation

The impending digital crisis was first highlighted by the Ukie-funded NextGen Skills Report (2011); along with the Royal Society report “Shut Down or Restart” (2011), where it was one of the major factors involved in convincing the government to make its radical change to bring in the world leading Computing Curriculum.

In order to help improve the delivery of the computing curriculum, the report calls for the government to make the subject an essential part of the Ofsted inspections. The report also states that schools should be required to build sustainable plans for embedding computing using innovative ways to boost capacity through the various informal learning opportunities offered by industry.

In addition, they call for:

  • Government to work with the Tech Partnership to establish a forum for employers to raise and discuss priorities for ensuring the computing curriculum and its teaching stay up to date.
  • Teach First and Master Teachers should scale up their ICT Streams to help deliver the number of Computing teachers required
  • Government should publish its Digital Strategy, which should be more than just a catalogue of initiatives. The report should set out a vision for the future with a strategy that will enable us to achieve it.
  • Digital Skills should become a core component alongside English and Maths across all apprenticeships, not just the ‘digital apprenticeships’.

The games industry has already been making its own efforts to tackle the talent shortages it faces. Ukie’s Student Membership scheme and the pioneering Digital Schoolhouse Programme both aim to work with students and educators across all phases to help strengthen the talent pipeline.

The Digital Schoolhouse aims to use industry level expertise and innovation to educate, inspire and engage students and teachers with the new computing curriculum, in workshops that the Oliver Twins note are “not only fun to use, but actually fun to learn” programming techniques.

Since its launch in 2014, the programme has already supported approximately 9000 pupils and 1000 teachers across London. The initiative will be rolled out to UK-wide for the first time in September 2016. 


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