Over the course of 2010, the IT skills shortage was once again in the news, as was the fact that students are becoming disillusioned with the way in which ICT is taught in schools.
According to a recent study from the Royal Society - a fellowship of the UK's most prominent scientists - there has been a 33 per cent drop in ICT GCSE students over the past three years, a 33 per cent drop in numbers studying A-level ICT in the past six years, and a huge 57 per cent drop in A-level computing students over the past eight years in England.
Reasons given include boredom - with some claiming that students find the IT curriculum bland by comparison with the way they use IT in their personal lives.
Meanwhile, professor Andrew Tuson from City University claims the current ICT syllabus has the dual effect of putting the bright kids off doing IT because of the focus on spreadsheets and word processors, while convincing weak students that this is an easy area of study, thus mismanaging student expectations.
The Royal Society is now conducting its own investigation into why students are opting not to pursue IT-related qualifications at school. Its investigation is due to be completed in November 2011; however, Computing discovered that one idea currently being explored by the Society would see IT dropped from the curriculum as a subject in its own right, and instead integrated more extensively across all other subjects.
Year of the apprenticeship
In order to counteract the falling numbers of students pursuing IT in education, IT employers have already made a concerted effort to succeed where schools are failing, by setting up their own training schemes to attract young people into the industry.
BT said it saw unprecedented interest in its apprenticeship scheme this year and has extended it as a result. IBM has also developed its first-ever apprenticeship programme in England, and the company has been looking to recruit 20 "IT specialist" apprentices to take part in a two-year development programme.
Microsoft has also launched its Britain Works campaign, aimed at providing IT skills to young people in the UK. The company is also encouraging senior IT leaders to offer work placements. The scheme will be extended to provide 3,000 apprenticeships within the company and partner organisations.
And even London Mayor Boris Johnson is calling for the city's businesses to create their own apprenticeship programmes. Government supplier Accenture is one of a number of companies supporting the challenge, having launched its own apprenticeship scheme to 1,100 of its existing staff and 200 new recruits.
The National Apprenticeship Service believes the widespread reluctance to follow traditional academic routes into IT careers could signal a move towards IT apprenticeships as an alternative way to get a foot in the door.
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