• Amali Alwis
  • Dr Jo Twist OBE
CEO, Code First: Girls

What is currently being done to bridge the digital skills gap?

The good news is that digital skills are now included in the school curriculum and many schools are teaching coding. The apprentice levy supports digital apprenticeships and coding schools are springing up to provide people with training. However, this can often be as scattered and ad-hoc provision. We need to see more system-wide training programmes for individuals who are low on funds and for companies to help train employees.

What is the value of digital inclusion?

There is no such thing as a non-tech business these days – sectors as diverse as law, retail and marketing and communications are now all driven by technology. A Tech City UK report stated last year that another million digital workers will be required across all sectors by 2020, and surveys show that workers in digital roles earn around a third more than the national average. These workers are in demand for well-paid jobs. Meanwhile, for companies, having a digitally-skilled workforce increases the chance of them remaining competitive.

What do you think we need to do moving forward?

We need lifelong digital education – it should not be confined just to schools. However, schools do also need more support to deliver the digital curriculum. Some do not teach coding because teachers feel uncomfortable teaching a subject where they lack practical experience.  Continued professional education in digital skills for teachers would help. Companies should also consider training more employees in digital skills – the talent they need may well be in their company already, given the right training. The government provides welcome guidance and support, but continuing and increasing funding for digital training outside of schools would be a worthwhile investment.

How are digital skills changing the workplace?

Across all industries, we are now completely dependent on digital skills in order to function.

Even roles and industries which were traditionally not technologically dependent now require digital skills and at least a basic understanding of how technology impacts our businesses. This poses a challenge for companies and their non-digital native employees, who now often find themselves faced with the situation that the skills they qualified with for a job are no longer sufficient. This makes on the job digital training for all is even more crucial.

How can we help job seekers /those returning to work from a career break get into digital roles?

Recently I was on a commission that looked at skills and education, including those who had been long-term unemployed. These days there are jobs available but basic digital literacy is often needed to apply for most of them. We found that some people had no access to computers, while others did not have the skills required to write a CV on a computer or fill in online application forms. Access is not enough. People need basic skills, including older people, some returners, and people with skills gaps. Help from local authorities and employers is required if people are to take on roles involving digital skills.

CEO of UKIE

What is currently being done to bridge the digital Skills gap?

A play-based and creative approach to teaching and understanding foundational principles and power of computer science, such as the Digital Schoolhouse which is now supported by PlayStation, is critical. Digital Schoolhouses, which was originally seed funded by the Mayor of London, are now in schools across the country, and all the resources are mapped to the curriculum. It is important that teachers are supported and equipped with industry relevant resources in order to attract diverse young people into the subjects they need to get into 21st Century – and most of these jobs have not even been invented yet. We also have a volunteer speaker network of over 360 Video Games Ambassadors, who work across the country, providing valuable advice and guidance to people who want to enter the industry. They go into schools, colleges, universities, and major UK games shows, promoting STEAM careers and inspiring the next generation of games makers across the UK. It’s great to see code clubs across the country, and specifically Code Liberation, Girls Who Code, and Code First are all networks which are designed to encourage women to explore coding in fun and friendly environments, upskilling women with digital skills and doing much-needed work to increase the numbers of women working in tech. We need diversity of perspectives underpinning creativity and innovation for any economy to thrive – and the creative technology and skills involved in making games is no exception.

What is the value of digital inclusion?  (equipping our entire workplace with digital skills?)

Diversity is the absolute key to ensuring that the UK is creating the best games and interactive entertainment in the world, and so upskilling everyone, (regardless of background, gender, socio-economic considerations, for example) with digital skills is of the utmost importance to ensure that the products we are creating are as innovative, different, relevant, reflective of people’s loves, creative and exciting as the vastly diverse range of people who are playing the games we make. No matter what sector you are in, what kind of job you have, our everyday lives locally and globally are increasingly underpinned by the internet. This is not going to change so people need to understand how to empower themselves, protect their privacy, understand how data is used, and have confidence with technology to enhance their lives. The ability to run a business and export a digital product to the world from your living room is an exciting opportunity that should be open to al.

What do you think we need to do moving forward?

Creating a highly digitally skilled workforce is a benefit not only to games companies, but to other sectors of the UK economy that rely on diverse technical and creative talent to drive innovation. We need to continue to invest in equipping people with digital skills from the earliest age – our lives and jobs are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, and so we need to ensure that the learners of today are equipped with the skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow. A crucial part of this is instilling the combination of art, creative subjects alongside computer and other sciences and getting proper careers advice into schools. We need polymaths with different views of the world and the desire to re-programme systems if they are no longer working if our economy is going to remain globally competitive.