IT education needs to be improved in UK schools if the industry's talent pool is to advance, according to speakers at an e-Skills event yesterday.
Estimates from the European Commission (EC) suggest that Europe may have a shortfall of 384,000 ICT practitioners by 2015 if more people are not attracted to the profession.
EC principal administrator André Richier pointed out that only half of ICT practitioners actually hold a degree in their field.
However, British Computer Society chief executive David Clarke believes that more ICT professionals and those with high IQs can be encouraged into the sector only if the teaching of IT at school is changed.
"Young people could not be more engaged in IT. They are more switched on than the rest of us, so what's the problem?" he said.
"It's because of the way IT is taught in schools. IT seems to be boring. It's taught as secretarial. It's Word. It's Excel."
Clarke argued that the main way children are taught IT at school is through copying and teacher instruction, but the way they want to learn is through groups and by completing practical tasks.
"This is how they learn technology outside school, but inside it's the opposite," he said.
Stephen Uden, head of skills and economic affairs at Microsoft, agreed. "The problem is that the IT skills children are taught at school are at a mismatch with how they view technology," he said.
Lizzie Holman, senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Education and Skills Group, maintained that the problems continue to degree level.
Some 64 per cent of science, high-technology and IT employers believe that the content of degrees are not relevant to their needs, according to CBI statistics.
"What we need is a qualification that is really fit for purpose," said Holman, adding that universities, business and the government need to work together to create a worthwhile qualification.
Gareth Preece, skills specialist at UK Trade & Investment, suggested that the quality of IT degrees is a "subjective subject".
"Universities are producing IT graduate students, but whether the degrees fit with business needs is another question. We need a wider conversation between business and universities," he said.
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