Tech literacy challenge

Tech literacy challenge

BT recognises the importance of ensuring its people are fully engaged in terms of skills and knowledge.

It is also actively engaged in schemes that help people outside of the company develop skills that will help them in the world of work especially digital skills. The UK has enormous untapped tech potential, and its future prosperity depends on harnessing it. But our ability to do that and ensure that the tech revolution does make a better, more inclusive world, depends on having people who are tech literate. And the reality is that we don’t have that yet. We see the urgency of this challenge, and we are helping to address it.

This is not just about a skilled workforce for high tech companies, though that matters too. This is about opportunities for young people in a world where their prospects will be shaped by tech. It’s more fundamental than just knowing how to use an app or upload an image, it means being fluent in tech thinking, computational thinking and problem solving.

The nation faces a ‘tech literacy paradox’: from an early age, kids grow up surrounded by technology, their world is ‘always connected’ with information and entertainment at their fingertips. They are tech consumers but they’re not tech literate; they don’t know how it works. And most of them don’t appreciate the impact tech will have on them and how it is shaping the world. Technology advances can provide solutions to some of society’s major challenges, social inclusion, health and the environment. Countries and businesses all over the world are calling for people who are tech literate.
Building a culture of tech literacy

BT is convinced that the only answer to these challenges is to ensure everyone grows up with the know-how for the jobs of the future, and to shape a more inclusive society. We have made a commitment to build a culture of tech literacy with our first target to reach five million kids by 2020. That means helping young people to become curious about how technology actually works, in control of it, and ultimately active creators with it. It’s all about preparing the next generation to thrive in a digital world. Doing this can help create more open governments and more active citizens, and provide the basis for prosperous economies, competitive business, and improved life chances for individuals.

We need to start with the next generation, that’s why we’ve designed our tech literacy programme around the goal of supporting young people. We see three crunch-points where we should focus our collective efforts to build that culture of tech literacy:

  • Early education and primary school, where we must harness the enthusiasm of young minds, and embed it as a foundation skill that’s as important as English and maths
  • Teenage years, where we must inspire young people to want to build the tech skills they’ll need in a digital world, and empower them to be confident in navigating that world
  • Transition to work, where we must show young people that tech will be in every job, and is the new way to get ahead.

Tech literacy is a shared challenge, which can only be tackled by working together across sectors. Many organisations are now devoting effort to this, we need to join up those initiatives, to scale up what’s working well, to make sure each intervention is responding to real needs, and to share learning. We’ve taken that collaborative approach in everything we’ve done so far.

The Barefoot computing project for primary schools
One example of collaboration is the Barefoot Computing Project, www.barefootcas.org.uk which helps primary school teachers become confident with the tech literacy concepts through a combination of free teaching materials and volunteer-led, face-to-face training.

Connecting to popular culture in the teenage years
Teenagers are voracious consumers of technology, and they take it for granted. Many of them think tech know-how is boring, and not relevant to their future. It’s vital we demonstrate that tech is part of the activities that this age group loves, to bring alive the wide range of opportunities that can be unlocked by getting tech literate. The BT STEM Crew initiative with Ben Ainslie Racing is another way we’re using sport to interest kids in the role tech plays in careers. It provides teaching materials that bring alive topics within the STEM curriculum through the lens of performance sailing. A new BT STEM Crew programme has also been rolled out in Yorkshire and the Humber. To date the programme has engaged with 38 teachers at 27 Secondary Schools in the region – which equates to 2,525 children reached.
ready for the transition to work

Our Work Ready programme helps 16-24 year olds, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, get prepared for work. Young people not currently in education, employment or training join BT for seven weeks of skills development and work experience in a workplace powered by tech. Since January 2017 in Yorkshire and the Humber at least 59 young people have started on a work placement, 33 completed/graduated, 18 of the 33 completed/graduated have moved into employment/ education or Training (55 And 75 further places are planned between now and the end of the calendar year. In total 134 places will have been on offer for the area.

Gemma Blewitt, is a warehouse operative in Supply Chain, and joined the team based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Gemma has featured in the national press, as a role model for young people making a real success and change in their lives with our traineeship scheme. Gemma explained how the scheme has helped her. “During the traineeship I covered various topics, and exercises including team work games that helped us find out more about ourselves as individuals so we could then improve our CVs and how to present ourselves to potential employers. We were also given the chance to improve on our English and Maths functional skills and we were able to take a test in both. We also gained work experience by spending two days a week in the warehouse, and we were also given the task to make a presentation and present it to a members of staff. We were given a problem and we had to try to find a solution to it using continuous improvement. The presentation not only gave us more knowledge of continuous improvement but also gave us more confidence in presentations as it was quite challenging for a few of us.”

Gemma added “I would highly recommend the traineeship to anyone; it is a great experience and great opportunity to get you into work by learning and gaining expertise along the way. The traineeship builds your confidence and opens so many doors, an overall brilliant experience that I would do all over again.”
Working with Other Partners

The Cyber Schools Programme
The Government has chosen BT to help deliver a £20m programme to give talented teenagers cybersecurity skills. The Cyber Schools Programme from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will encourage young people to learn cybersecurity skills alongside their secondary school studies. The programme will launch in England in the autumn. We’ll help deliver it through a nationwide network of extracurricular clubs, activities and a new online game with help from BT Volunteers.

Collaboration with Universities/Research and development (R&D)
BT is the third largest investor in R&D in the UK over the past 10 years. BT works with universities through UK Research Councils, collaborative programmes and directly funded research, including Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York universities in this region.

Skills to Support Wider Society/BT’s Purposeful Business Activities
BT is also helping with skills to benefit the wider society. The last published UK Business and Digital Index showed that only 51% of charities have Basic Digital Skills and 53% are now accepting online donations, suggesting there are significant opportunities for charities to leverage. BT’s MyDonate platform enables charities to raise money online, with over £8m being raised by charities in the region. We also provide technology to support charities such as the BT Community Web Kit which helps smaller charities build, manage and update their own websites – over 1,200 websites have been set up by smaller charities/community groups in the region. Employees across the region volunteer to share a wide range of skills with local charities and by running workshops with charities across the country, BT has been sharing business skills and knowledge to help charities.

Apprenticeships and Graduates

Our BT apprenticeship ‘frameworks’ include computing, cyber-security, software, network engineering and digital media, which show just how important tech literacy is to our modern workforce. Our apprenticeship scheme has been in place for over 50 years. With EE having joined BT we will be recruiting around 900 apprentices each year.

NickNick Woodward, age 46 from Barnsley, South Yorkshire joined Openreach as an Apprentice Infrastructure Engineer. Prior to joining he had been a self-employed chef for 22 years. Nick had always had an interest in engineering and originally started down that path with his career but lifestyle choices got in the way, wanting to learn a new skill before he was too old he returned to engineering. Nick has now completed 24 months of his 30 month apprenticeship and is enjoying his new role building, testing, maintaining and repairing both the fibre optic and copper networks. Nick said “Having been self-employed for 22 years and feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders one of the things I like most about the job is being part of a TEAM”

SiSi Cunningham, 26 is a Project Manager with Global Services. Si went to Leeds Beckett University where he graduated top of his class with a Business Management degree. He chose to apply for the BT graduate scheme because of BT’s reputation and brand, the industry, career opportunities, corporate culture and training and professional development opportunities (which were highlighted more than other schemes he applied for). Si project manages delivery of complex technical products and services to a variety of global customers. He also coaches and acts as a mentor for new project management graduates. Si has undergone a variety of training with BT, including Leadership Development, Project and Programme Management, Coaching and Mentoring and Commercial and Finance training alongside extensive online training available to BT employees. Si said “I love the dynamic aspect to the job, every day is different and every day I learn. BT’s investment in our learning and development I’ve also found of great benefit. And with a young family the flexibility of agile working has given me a good work life balance”. Si has attended graduate fairs at York University and Leeds talking to students about ‘non-legal careers at BT for law graduates’.