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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Action needed on tech skills gap
Girls working on computer at school
Getting girls interested in technology is vital
More needs to be done to bridge the gap between computer skills taught in schools and those needed by employers.

So said Karen Price, Chief Executive Officer of e-skills UK, the government-aided organisation charged with plugging the tech skills gap in the UK.

At an event which saw the organisation officially awarded a five-year licence to be the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres, Ms Price urged Education Secretary Charles Clarke to put skills on the top of his agenda.

With women particularly lacking among the tech workforce, Ms Price asked Mr Clarke to consider extending a regional scheme to ignite girls' interest in technology country-wide.

Girl-friendly tech

In the UK, less than three quarters of the workforce possess the necessary IT skills to perform their job; it's simply not good enough
Karen Price, e-skills
Computer Clubs for Girls have proved extremely popular in the schools around the south east where they have been set up.

One school in Reading reported that half of its 11 to 14 year olds had signed up to join.

The clubs aim to promote the use of technology in a girl-friendly way, with projects such as designing websites for pop stars and magazine covers.

"This programme is transforming the attitude and skills of hundreds of girls," said Ms Price.

"It must be made available to every school in the UK so that we can transform a generation of children."

Ms Price also urged government to ensure that every undergraduate be given a basic understanding of technology regardless of what course they were doing.

And finally she requested the government consider the idea of creating an e-skills passport, available to the 21 million people who currently use technology in their work.

Employees would gain credits for each piece of relevant training that they undergo.

"In the UK, less than three quarters of the workforce possess the necessary IT skills to perform their job; it's simply not good enough," she said.

"This skills gap impacts the GDP of the UK as a whole and means the organisations affected simply cannot fulfil their potential," she added.

Curriculum changes?

There are serious questions about how well we teach ICT and how what we teach links into the e-skills agenda
Charles Clarke, Education Secretary

Mr Clarke acknowledged that interaction between the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Trade and Industry had not been as joined-up as it should have been in the past.

But now he was in regular dialogue with Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt he was determined to build up a relationship between schools and local employers.

"There is a fundamentally different relationship between employers and the education system but building that partnership is essential," he said.

There was also a need to take another look at the curriculum in regards to the teaching of tech skills.

"There are serious questions about how well we teach ICT and how what we teach links into the e-skills agenda," he said.

The issue was wider than just a school problem though and there was no underestimating the importance of an adequately skilled workforce he said.

"It is vitally important for our country that we really focus on this skills agenda and improve our performance across the board," he said.

"The future prosperity of all of us - the whole of our society - will depend on this."


SEE ALSO:
Skills shortage leaves jobs unfilled
08 Apr 03  |  Education
Women in science award for professor
31 Mar 03  |  Science/Nature
Women offered taste of tech
30 Jan 03  |  Technology
Women spurning tech jobs
23 Jan 03  |  Technology
Website contest to tempt teen girls
07 Nov 02  |  Technology


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