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Tackling the skills gap in the classroom

Ash Merchant, Education Director at Fujitsu, looks at the digital skills tomorrow's workers should be learning today

Posted by Alice Savage | May 10, 2017 | Technology

The classroom has changed dramatically in recent years. Today, you have virtual reality (VR) enabling students to explore ancient Greece; to video conferencing allowing them to develop their language skills with others all over the world. Technology provides endless opportunities for students to learn and thrive. However, challenges with the skills gap for both teachers and students has put the progression of our education system into question. 

The power of public/private partnership 

Emotional interface designer, commercial civilian drone operators, home automation contractor; these are just a handful of the many jobs that have not been invented yet that pupils currently in school will end up in. The direction of our digital economy is moving at a rapid pace and it is essential for organisations leading this advance to do what they can to help ensure the next generation is well equipped with relevant digital skills to compete in the future job market. 

Education establishments must work to change their offerings to meet the needs of the young people they teach. Collaboration with leading industry partners will allow them to do this by bringing technology into the learning experience. More importantly, working with industry provides a chance for practical learning which can be essential for difficult subjects that require a sense of realism to bring them to life. 

Take Fujitsu’s work with the London Design and Engineering UTC for example, which saw students use Fujitsu technology to complete a project where they designed a VR environment from scratch that takes viewers on a journey around an Ethiopian village.

Through collaboration with industry, whether it is through apprenticeship programmes or support on real world-based projects, businesses can help to arm students with the digital skills and knowledge that they need to successfully enter the working world. 

Ash Merchant

Training for all

When compared to the advancements and opportunities in tech, we’re seeing a significant gap in the number of pupils pursuing STEM as well as in the teachers who will encourage them to enter these sectors. This was highlighted in a report by the Commons Education Select Committee, which shows the government has missed recruitment targets five years in a row, with the key subjects to be affected by this being physics and maths. This is a big concern for the next generation of school leavers who are at risk of being ill-equipped for the industries they’ll soon find themselves competing to enter. 

Inequality in access to technology in schools is one of the biggest challenges we currently have with the skills gap. Free from government reforms, and with an ability to operate in an agile fashion, independent schools have typically led the way in terms of introducing new technologies into the learning experience. Once the driving force of innovation in the sector, this is no longer the case. The gap between pupils at public and private schools, particularly in their access to learning through technology is now being bridged and this is being driven by collaboration with industry.

Last year, Fujitsu, alongside partners Intel, Brocade and Kyocera, announced the expansion of our Education Ambassador Programme to 20 new institutions, allowing us to create Innovation Hubs that support project-based learning and encourage the development of STEM skills for students and teachers. As technology moves ahead in leaps and bounds every day, teachers need to be provided with skills that will allow them to use technology effectively to help feed digitally native students’ appetite for knowledge. This collaboration is vital for our society, as teachers continue to unlock pupils’ imaginations and creativity to ensure they reach their full potential.

With business leaders across all sectors telling us that their organisation will not exist in its current form in five years and that the skills shortage is a major threat to the growth of their businesses, it has never been more crucial for the education industry to do more for our future generations.  

W: fujitsu.com/uk/ 

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