Cisco vows to give 4,000 Brit kids a proper IT schooling
New message to teens: Computing is cool
Digital London Networking giant Cisco has pledged to leave the UK a technology “investment legacy” after the Olympics that’ll deliver thousands of skilled workers for IT.
Cisco is hooking up centres of learning across the UK and plans on opening networking academies in East London and the Olympic boroughs.
Neil Crockett, managing director of Cisco’s London 2012 work, said on Wednesday that his company will connect several “nodes” this year starting with the Ravensbourne digital media and design centre in Greenwich and Birmingham’s Science Park. Cisco is the Olympics' networks provider and a sponsor.
Cisco will open two "innovation" centres in London – one in Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch and another at Olympic Park – plus 30 academies that’ll teach skills in networking technology designed to prime thousands of youngsters for work in IT. Cisco will deliver this over a five-year period.
“We believe 4,000 kids from East London will go through those academies and get jobs in IT,” Crockett said while speaking at the Digital London event in Docklands.
“We have got a need here in this industry. The Olympics is a huge opportunity for catalyst. It can drive innovation and growth in the IT industry.”
The lack of skilled graduates coming into UK tech was highlighted and lamented by Microsoft and UK retailer John Lewis, also at Digital London
All three companies, plus others, are participating in the UK government’s plans for a technology curriculum that finally qualifies students for a decent career in tech rather than just teaching them how to save an Excel spreadsheet.
In development is a computer science GCSE through a programme called Behind the Screen that’s being devised by IT sector training body e-skills UK with input from employers. The existing curriculum was scrapped in January following sustained criticism from employers for failing to turn out qualified students while other nations forge ahead.
According to John Lewis, the number of those taking computing A levels is down 53 per cent since 2004 nationally and 23 per cent in London, while UK residents applying for tech-related higher education courses has fallen 44 per cent since 2001.
UK tech is ageing, too: the number of IT professionals under the age of 30 has fallen to 19 per cent from 33 per cent in 2001, while – according to Cisco – there are 60,000 vacant tech job slots in the UK. “We’ve got a bit of a crisis,” said John Lewis IT director Paul Coby.
He said some modules in the new GCSE are now running in pilot mode with broader pilots due next year – 20 schools are participating as guinea pigs.
Microsoft UK managing director Gordon Frazer speaking at Digital London said of the work: “The GCSE needs a lot of work and we completely agree with that, and we are doing a lot of work to get it back to the caliber that's needed.”
Coby also made it clear this is not just a matter of putting in place a new qualification. Tech has to improve its image as a whole, especially among young girls.
“Tech is a really cool thing to do” in places like Bangalore, he said. “The Indian graduates will work enormously hard to get into the Tata, Wipros, Microsofts and Ciscos in India. It ain’t like that here. We really need to get over why IT ain't cool. It's not a problem people have in other parts of the world.” ®
What about the existing pool of skilled, experienced unemployed IT bods in their 40s who are being fired in favour of cheap youngsters?
Getting people who see the pound signs, and sign up to a course not because they enjoy the subject but because they see money in it is not the answer...
Having interviewed many people over the years, i have found that:
Many people have no real interest in technology, they see the pound signs, follow a course and are willing to simply accept what they're told and repeat what they were taught rather than thinking for themselves. These people are generally mediocre at best, and soon get left behind by technology, while trying to hold everyone else back with them.
And then you have the people who have a true interest in the subject, who will go out and teach themselves, who have a natural curiosity and will not accept what they've been told without investigating it for themselves.
The latter are almost invariably better, provided they aren't stifled by being subservient to the former...
I have also found that the most capable people, are those who started their computing use at a young age, and usually using systems from the likes of Sinclair and Commodore.
Modern computers, OSX, some modern Linux and especially Windows is _VERY_ bad for teaching youngsters...
You give them a system that shows them dire warnings "don't touch these system files, you might break something!" they will become afraid to experiment... And experimentation is the best way for a youngster to learn.
This is even worse if the computer is shared, as they will be afraid of breaking it and incurring the wrath of the other users...
And this becomes very clear when speaking to people, those who's first exposure to computing was one of these more modern systems are often far less inquisitive, and are willing to simply accept what someone tells them and are usually fearful of trying to find out for themselves.
By contrast, the C64 and Sinclair series kept the core system in ROM... No matter what you did, a quick power cycle and its back to normal. Similarly the Amiga although it loaded Workbench from floppies, one of the first things the instruction manual told you to do was make a copy of your workbench disks (complete with instructions on how to do so) and then encouraged you to play with the copies, safe in the knowledge that you can just make a new copy if you break it. All of these systems also came with manuals which instructed you how to use the system, and even how to start programming it.
What's needed, is more systems which actively encourage people to experiment with them and learn, given to kids at a young age... Hopefully the Raspberry Pi will go a long way towards this goal.
Cool in Bangalore because there are jobs there
“Tech is a really cool thing to do” in places like Bangalore, he said. “The Indian graduates will work enormously hard to get into the Tata, Wipros, Microsofts and Ciscos in India. It ain’t like that here. We really need to get over why IT ain't cool. It's not a problem people have in other parts of the world.”
Exactly - it may be cool in Bangalore because loads of British jobs have been outsourced to India or offered to Indians on ICT visas who are then rotated in and out of the UK, so the companies concerned can avoid UK/European employment law and save a wad of cash. Statistics clearly show that IT graduates have the least chance of finding work and that's why nobody is interested.