NCCE Digital Skills Forum Education and the future of work - video

20 July 2021

How can education meet the demands of the future of work? The work-place is changing fast and employers predict a shortage of digital skills in the future – but also new opportunities for a skilled workforce.

The NCCE Digital Skills Forum event Education and the Future of Work, on July 8, brought together a panel of experts, chaired by Prof Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of the National Centre for Computing Education, to discuss these issues.

“It’s not easy to predict the future but we can be certain it’s going to involve some kind of interaction with a data-rich, interconnected, pervasively digital world,” said Prof Simon Peyton Jones, computer science researcher at Microsoft Research. “How should education evolve to prepare children for a world like that and what skills will they need to survive and thrive? And how can industry engage with education rather than simply ‘consume’ its products?”

Abigail Gilbert, Principal Researcher at the Institute for the Future of Work, is interested in the way technology can impact the distribution of power and resources within society and looked at how technology can shape the experience of work.

She described how narrowing what is seen as work eg the number of items scanned across a supermarket till has an impact on the human experience of work autonomy dignity and mental health.

“We should focus not on perfecting the system but in understanding the humans at the centre of it. Employers should look at our Good Work charter to consider how technology can shape the experience of work,” she said.

“The process of narrowing what's defined as valuable in work can lead to workers feeling devalued and prevented from doing the very human things that make the work fulfilling, like talking to each other. We would suggest there needs to be greater consideration of what contributes to productivity and what needs to be measured.

“Technology has huge potential to make all of our lives richer if we design and deploy it in the right fashion. This is not inevitable for work, so we need to be conscious of designing work to improve the lived experience and using tech to serve those ends.”

Teacher Chris Hillidge, Director of STEM, The Challenge Academy Trust is responsible for the STEM  Strategy across The Challenge Academy Trust and  leads the NCCE Computing Hub for Merseyside & Warrington.

Chris talked about the importance of role models and using technology for real world applications to inspire the young people to look at digital and STEM careers.

“Our motto is been ‘you can't be what you can't see,’ so we work to inspire young people with tech skills and real world technology projects. For instance, we worked with an engineer from Bentley who worked with hundreds of children to build an electric vehicle. For the children to see the idea develop from digital through to reality was an incredibly powerful experience for them.”

“We also collaborated globally for the fabrication of ventilation masks in response to the Covid pandemic. This collaboration with experts and partners across the world enabled children to interact with teams in India and Nepal and understand that tech can be an enormous power for good.”

“Schools aren’t here to provide workers for industry – they are here to work together with industry in a meaningful partnership is the way forward.  We are trying to develop the creative skills, team-work and communication skills so that students who have good ideas can apply them and inspire others. That’s how we can set them up in a career that’s of value to them.”

Mavis Machirori, Senior Researcher at the Ada Lovelace Institute spoke about the importance of access to data and technology to open up employment opportunities.

“If people aren't able to attain the kind of skills they need to access higher education and employment, then the ways of participating in the digital economy are limited. If we are not enabling all children to participate in digital skills, the workforce will be homogeneous and technology will keep asking the same questions of society. It's about not just giving access but also being able to critique data that is available and its influence e.g. what does it mean to be over surveyed for instance.”

“We need to think about the digital skills we need as part of a larger social understanding, and consider what we're trying to achieve when you think about delivering digital skills e.g. do we have the necessary societal infrastructure to support people beyond the digital skills themselves.”

Thank you to all our panelists for taking part.

The NCCE’s next Digital Skills Forum will relaunch with a new programme of monthly webinars in the autumn. The Digital Skills Forum, is a monthly series of online events hosted by The National Centre for Computing Education brings together expert speakers from industry and education for a lively discussion looking at how we can work together effectively.