IT skills and certifications body CompTIA has launched Skillsboost, an online hub for pupils, teachers and parents to find IT training courses and understand the opportunities the technology industry offers.
The website offers visitors access to vendor-neutral and localised information on the employment statistics, salaries and the skills in demand in their area.
This information should enable schools and colleges to tailor their courses in order to boost students' employment opportunities.
Graham Hunter, vice president of skills certifications at CompTIA, told V3 that Skillsboost is aimed at encouraging more young people to learn IT skills and pursue careers in the technology industry.
"What we're doing here is our bit to solve the IT skills gap," he said.
Hunter hopes Skillsboost will encourage students who are currently finishing their exams and looking toward the next steps in their education to consider IT-related subjects.
"We really want to use this as a platform to inform, educate and inspire individuals, and really just give them a snapshot into IT," he said. "We're trying to give as much information as possible."
Skillsboost also offers quizzes that schools and colleges can use to measure the computing skills of their students against industry-developed standards.
Furthermore, visitors can trial an intelligent online learning technology known as CertMaster, which adapts IT subjects and content on the site to match the IT abilities of students.
Skillsboost will also inform visitors on where they can go to improve their skills and get vocational qualifications that are recognised by major companies in the technology industry.
Hunter said that Skillsboost will soon also feature a section on apprenticeships, which informs visitors of the learn-on-the-job IT opportunities in their local area.
"The apprenticeship side of things is going to be built out," he said. "We have to shine a light on some of the organisations that are attracting grade A students and are actually offering them a viable alternative to university."
Hunter was keen to point out that Skillsboost does not favour any technology companies and will provide details on the wide range of training and apprenticeships on offer rather than focus on digital skills associated with well-recognised brands.
"The crux for us is getting that broad foundation of skills at the start of your career," he said. "We believe that approaching your IT at the first hurdle and looking at it from a vendor-neutral perspective is the best way to start out."
Hunter said one of the key aims behind Skillsboost is to challenge some of the misconceptions parents might have about working in the IT world.
"We recognise there are some stereotypes out there that perhaps need to be broken down, and a lot the time that information is coming from the parents," he said. "It isn't about sitting in a darkened room with no natural light; IT is inherently practical."
Hunter said he hoped the hub will encourage parents and students to see IT as an alternative to more traditional well-paid career paths such as medicine or law by demonstrating the wealth and variety of job options on offer to people with digital skills.
"If you've got an interest in technology and say you've got an interest in fashion, there are careers out there in which you can combine these two interests," he said.
A helping hand
Since the launch of compulsory coding in the new English school curriculum, there has been increased pressure on teachers to educate their pupils in a subject they many not be familiar with.
Hunter said struggling teachers can direct their students to Skillboost as a means of supporting their education in the classroom, and the website will soon be able to offer them additional teaching resources.
"We recognise the government has placed a lot of emphasis on teaching IT in a more fun way and the curriculum is being beefed-up, but some of the teachers are lacking the confidence to teach [IT-based subjects]," he said.
"So we are providing lesson plans which will be ready for launch in September; this is part of the resources that teachers will be able to access through Skillsboost."
While organisations like CompTIA look at building up the UK's digital skills in the long term, others see a short-term solution to the problem that involves hiring talented migrants with IT skills.
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