On the eve of the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, some of the biggest names from the digital, creative and hi-tech industries are joining up with leading skills and educational bodies to launch a major new campaign to change the education system and ensure that the computer programming skills needed for the future growth of the UK’s hi-tech economy are properly embedded in schools and classrooms.
Building on the recommendations made by the Livingstone Hope review of the skills needs in the UK’s video games and visual effects industries, Next Gen Skills believes that the UK needs to improve its education system to equip the next generation of programmers with the computer skills needed to drive hi-tech growth.
The campaign is concerned that computer science, the most important skill required to create the digital devices and software of the future, is not currently on the national curriculum and that the ICT courses currently on offer teach children how to use computers, but not how to create them.
To compete with international hi-tech hubs, the Next Gen Skills supporters argue that today’s digital employers need job-ready graduates with more specialist technical skills who can start work with an excellent understanding of production processes and the programming languages and software applications industries use and consumers want.
Next Gen Skills is being led by games and interactive entertainment trade body UKIE (including major international companies with UK interests such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Activision and SEGA, plus leading UK creative development studios such as Blitz Games Studios, PlayGen and The Creative Assembly). Other launch supporters include Google, TalkTalk, the British Screen Advisory Council, Guardian Media Group, Intellect, IPA, British Computing Society, Abertay University, Skillset, GuildHE, E Skills, NESTA and UK Screen (representing some of the world’s leading visual effects businesses, including Oscar winners Double Negative and Framestore).
Next Gen Skills is campaigning for:
· The introduction of an industry relevant Computer Science course within the framework of the National Curriculum
· A review of ICT in its current form and to embed essential ICT skills across the wider curriculum
· The promotion of the vital role that teaching maths, physics, art and computer science will play in ensuring the growth of UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries
Co-author of the Livingstone Hope review and co-chair of the Next Gen Skills Campaign, Ian Livingstone said: “As businesses increasingly rely on technology and computing, the UK has the opportunity to become a global, hi-tech leader. However, we need to improve our education system to allow this potential to be fulfilled.”
“Next Gen Skills believes that not having computer science on the national curriculum is a risk to any UK business that has computing and technology at its core. This is as relevant to design, engineering, financial services and architecture, from the building of jet engines to protection against cybercrime, as it is to the digital creative industries.”
“We’re excited to have so many big names signed up as initial supporters of Next Gen Skills already and we welcome support from any organisations who share our goal of equipping the next generation with the knowledge needed to grow this country’s digital, creative and hi-tech economy.”
Campaign supporters gave their backing:
Peter Barron, Director of External Relations, Google EMEA: “Google is delighted to be supporting the Next Gen Skills campaign. Google is a company built on, and still driven by, engineering. As we see increasing potential for growth in the creative, digital and hi-tech industries, we need to ensure that we are equipping the next generation with the skills they need to keep Britain at the cutting edge of technological and scientific innovation.”
Steve Beswick, Director of Education at Microsoft UK: “Microsoft strongly supports the introduction of Computer Science as a rigorous school subject at every level from primary onwards. Microsoft’s partners employ half a million people in the technology sector and often find it hard to recruit software developers who have the relevant technical background. We need a step change that re-establishes computer science as a high-status school subject, valuable both educationally and economically. Microsoft is already partnering with the Computing at School Group to campaign for computer science in the school curriculum and we are working to improve the UK’s computer science skills right across the board: from transformative technology in schools to IT apprenticeships and PhD places which we support at Edinburgh University.”
Andrew Miller, CEO, Guardian Media Group: “In a world where digital skills are becoming increasingly necessary in all aspects of life, this education campaign is extremely important. It is crucial that employers embrace technology, not least media organisations, and we support the call for this to be reflected in the national curriculum.”
Hasan Bakhshi, Director of Creative Industries at NESTA – which led the research for the Livingstone Hope review – said: “The video games and visual effects industries are a phenomenal success story for the UK. The Next Gen. review showed just how imperative it is that we equip our young people with the technical and creative skills to continue this legacy and grow the hi-tech creative sector in the UK. The Next Gen Skills Campaign will play a vital role in campaigning for the implementationof these findings.”
Fiona Clarke-Hackston, Chief Executive, BSAC added: “Technological change has had a huge impact on the skills needs of the audiovisual industries. If the UK is to remain globally competitive it is essential that changes are made to our educational system. The British Screen Advisory Council fully supports the Next Gen Campaign.”
Skillset’s Kate O’Connor commented: “Our VFX and games industries know that to remain world leaders, we need to equip the new generation of talent with a fusion of arts, maths and science skills. We support Next Gen Skills’ call for putting computer science on the national curriculum and combining this with a new approach to education that encourages young people to fuse those skills with their work in creative disciplines. If we act on this now, we will build a talent base to enable the continued growth of a thriving and dynamic creative sector into the future.”
Andy Payne, MD of Mastertronic: “Our business is in content creation. In order for us to continue to be successful we must ensure that our future employees have the skills necessary to both create and distribute compelling content that is wanted by consumers on a world-wide basis. Having ICT and not computer science on the national curriculum is a major error in judgement in our view and will force us to look elsewhere for the talented content creators who can design, build and deliver to content consumers.”