Recent figures have revealed a widening skills gap for the computing industry. Fewer pupils are opting to study for a GCSE in either computing or ICT and there is a growing gender gap, with boys outnumbering girls. Here, our managing director Jonathan Smy, and his niece Chloe Matthews, who is studying computer science at A level, discuss why digital technology is so important.
According to data from the Joint Council for Qualification, a total of 89,452 students studied ICT or computing at GCSE in 2019, compared to a combined total of 130,210 the previous year.
In total, boys accounted for 68,965 exam entries, while just 20,577 girls opted for the computing GCSE.
In my opinion, the new computing GCSE is perceived to be, and probably is, much harder than the previous ICT qualification and this is what is deterring students from studying it. And, at a time when there is pressure to perform in core academic subjects such as English, maths and science, maybe students do not want the added pressure of what is perceived to be a difficult subject.
Technology, computers and the digital world is firmly embedded all around us so students should not be discouraged from studying computing. But perhaps they are not fully aware of the extent to which digital technology is rooted in our world? Or that they can pick up studying computing later in life once they their core studies have been achieved.
What students need to understand is that there are numerous strands to computing and how the skills lend themselves to a career. It is important for us as IT experts to explain to students how computing translates into real life. We need to ensure that young people are not put off these subjects at school and are encouraged to see what doors can be unlocked by studying computing.
Chloe, 16, has recently chosen to study computer science at A level at Suffolk One, having found various aspects, such as programming and binary, of interest.
She said: “Despite the world around us becoming more digital, I don’t think people my age are fully aware of what a computer science course involves.
“As many people aren’t introduced to computer science before GCSE, their interest is more likely to be on something they already know about. Their original thought is that it’s just programming. They assume you have to be knowledgeable about the subject to be able to do the course.
“However, this isn’t the case and the course is accessible to anyone willing to try – just like any other subject.
“Computer science is not a subject but an insight into how everyday items and situations operate in order to function in society.”
Chloe is hoping to have a career in the computer science-based industry and is considering either an apprenticeship or going to university.
Understanding computer science is becoming more important in terms of day to day life – we all know someone who finds it difficult to set up emails on their mobile phone!
Computing touches so many sectors and careers. Even if you do not have a direct career in computing, there are very few jobs that do not require IT knowledge or the use of a computer. Everyone needs to embrace digitisation and value what it can do to improve daily routines.
The IT industry needs more young people to understand how interesting and diverse computing can be. The world really could be their oyster providing they are not afraid to take the plunge and discover the endless possibilities.