Building Britain’s Digital Future: critical skills needed


Tech London Advocates wants digital education to unlock London’s digital potential. Its ‘Learning Curve’ event highlighted practical education to increase digital skills, ranging from primary school to professionals,  to make up for the shortage of skilled graduates holding back the tech sector.  It offered 6 Panels that examined digital education.

 1. Digital Skills at the heart of Government

Minister for State with responsibility for digital industries, Ed Vaisey MP, stressed government’s investment in tech infrastructure and education. “The three things I am looking at is building the infrastructure this country needs, creating the right climate for investment to help us grow and scale, and putting down the roots to ensure that we have the skills we need for businesses.” 

2. Campaigning for talent

Practical Education Seminar

Maggie Philbin and Kerensa Jennings speaking at London Tech Advocates presentation on practical education

  • Urged Advocates to read the UK Digital Skills Taskforce report. ‘Never underestimate your power to make a difference to young people by inspiring them.’ (Maggie Philbin, Leader, UK Digital Skills Taskforce)
  • BBC learning is developing bite-sized resources for primary and secondary schools to support the new coding curriculum. (Kerensa Jennings, Head of Strategic Delivery, BBC)

NESTA Blog on Digital Taskforce


3. Learning Curve

Practical Education Seminar

Christine Flounders, Katarina Jones, Ruben Kostucki and Jess Tyrrell Speaking at London Tech Advocates presentation on practical education

  • Companies like Bloomberg need to coordinate with universities and input what should be taught and volunteer at schools to inspire students for the digital age. (Christine Flounders, Bloomberg)
  • Universities are not suited for teaching IT skills, 3-year degrees are to long for a fast changing tech industry.  Universities are fcoused on research, not teaching, and need to evolve.  Makers Academy gives a 12 week course for an £8000 investment with 25 graduates every 6 weeks walking into £30,000 jobs. (Ruben Kostucki, Makers Academy)
  • Has practitioners from the industry as teachers with a mind-set focused on working for an industry in London, a city on the tipping point to explode in tech.  (Katarina Jones, The Start Up Institute)
  • Apprenticeships are not yet fit for the digital age.  Connecting Tech City is mapping out digital cities and what London can do for the rest of the world.  With the disconnect between companies, tech cities and schools it is difficult for companies to engage with schools.  (Jess Tyrrell, Connecting Tech City)
Definition of Learning Curve

Click for more info on Learning Curve

Tech London Advocates on Learning Curve

4. Unlocking the potential of start-ups and scale-ups

Practical Education Seminar

Caroline Hyde, Deborah Op Den Kamp, George O’Connor, Harry Briggs and Ted Edmonson on Tech London Advocates panel

  • Companies are desperate for software developers and hope East European coders are not blocked by government (Harry Briggs, Balderton Capital)
  • Need for cultural change in universities and to develop training arms links with makers and universities instead of a 3-4 year degree (Ted Edmondson, KPMG)
  • Companies need good Chief Marketing Officers; strong product developments often lead to opening the IPO market (George O’Connor, Technology Analyst, Panmure Gordon)
  • To get an IPO: form a board with strong financial skills, ask questions and focus on diversity (thought, gender, racial).  There is a global shortage of coders and visas are easier to get in the UK than US.  CMO’s are hardest spot to fill in start ups, so offer leadership positions to young ones to make an impact (Deborah Op Dem Kamp, leader of CMO practice at Russell Reynolds)

Tech London Advocates on Start-Ups

5. Building a digital future

Practical Education Seminar

Lord Jim Knight, Mark Fawcett, Mark Martin, Rachel Swidenbank and Heather Picov speaking at London Tech Advocates presentation on practical education

Lord Jim Knight, MD of Online Learning at TSL Education Ltd, chaired this panel for practical education in action with

  • Teachers learning coding (Rachel Swidenbank, head of Codecademy’s UK Operations),
  • Parents getting informed and inspired about the new job market (Mark Fawcett, CEO of the National Schools Partnership)
  • Coding allowing kids to solve problems in new ways and leading to jobs (Heather Picov, Apps for Good)
  • Doing community projects and reaching out to get the most innovative tech and digital skills into the hands of learners (Mark Martin, aka @Urban_Teacher)

6. Raising the profile of digital skills

Practical Education Seminar

Kathryn Parson stresses practical education for digital skills

Importance of coding being accessible to young people: “I believe technology is the language of the future, the language of billions. Businesses are looking for digital literacy and confidence. The next step is empowering schools to bring coding alive in the classroom.” Biggest skeptics are in corporates and government so it’s a challenge to get them excited. She rebukes ridiculous statements such as ‘women’s brains don’t work that way’. When asked whom she’d like to teach coding, she quickly replied with Hillary Rodham Clinton. ‘She’s got everything and coding would be her plus. (Kathryn Parsons, Decoded co-founder)

Tech London Advocates Website