Microsoft has launched a new skills programme for schools that connects to the national curriculum and aims to prepare pupils for a digital future.
Explore the Digital Future offers discovery sessions, hands-on experiences and qualifications for 11 to 16–year–olds. The programme will introduce the young people to the technology sector but it will also build critical digital skills, such as coding, artificial intelligence, big data and Internet of Things, that can be used in many sectors, and help them consider the important issues of accessibility, diversity and inclusion in tech.
The number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE level has fallen 40% since 2015, according to the Learning and Work Institute. However, consulting firm Accenture says demand for AI, cloud and robotics skills is soaring. It is anticipated that there will be three million new technology jobs by 2025. Fifty-six per cent of leaders anticipate a digital skills gap that will hold them back from recovery and growth in the current economic climate, while just 27% of UK leaders believe the education system offers adequate digital training for pupils.
In October 2020, Microsoft launched the five-year Get On 2021 campaign that aims to help 1.5 million people build careers, address the widening digital talent gap in industry, accelerate technology adoption, drive UK productivity and enhance competitiveness by increasing access to tech careers and fostering new talent pathways.
Explore the Digital Future aims to help a younger age group by starting to build digital skills in the classroom. It is being launched during Digital Skills Week (week commencing April 26) with an event featuring space scientist and BBC broadcaster Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock; Alex Warner, Principal of the South Central Institute of Technology; and Clare Riley, Education Skills Lead at Microsoft UK. They will discuss the importance of inspiring future tech talent as well as diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
Kojo Hazel, Head of Vocational Education, from Treorchy Comprehensive in Wales, a Microsoft Showcase School, was delighted at the conversations and insights these lessons have prompted in his pupils. The programme also relates to the new Curriculum for Wales requirement of teaching black history and honouring the multi–ethnic nature in Wales.
UTC Reading is a Microsoft Showcase school for boys and girls aged 14 to 19 that specialises in engineering and computer science. It has quickly and easily added the new Microsoft skills programme into its curriculum.
Robert Bradley, Director of Computing at UTC Reading, said: “Explore the Digital Future has been fantastic as a way to introduce technology, coding and digital skills to my pupils. It sparked new conversations and the level of engagement was great to see; everyone who took part wanted to learn more. They were so passionate about the topics and came up with their own ideas for technology they would like to use in the future.
“One of my classes started an interesting discussion on diversity and inclusivity. It is important that everyone in society is included in the creation of technology so it is truly inclusive of the people who will use it and benefit everyone.
“Explore the Digital Future has been quick and easy to implement, and builds on top of the existing curriculum. It doesn’t replace what I’m currently teaching, it adds to it, taking learning in new and exciting directions. I can’t wait to inspire more pupils with these Microsoft resources.”
Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “Digital skills have never been more important. With the world now embracing a more hybrid way of working, technology is playing a key part in all our lives. In order to prepare young people for a more digital workplace, it’s crucial that they learn those skills now. We are working with schools across the UK, and I’m excited to see the impact that the Explore the Digital Future programme will have on classrooms.”