Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Maths - from Geek to Chic? Anyway, where are the entry-level IT jobs?

Sorry to return to a pet beef of mine but I happen to think that getting our young people interested in maths is key to the future of the technology sector in the UK. Practically every one of the tech companies that I admire and/or have relied on over the last 40 years have been established by people with STEM backgrounds. In latter years these have included the founders of Google and Facebook.

So why is studying a subject that could land you a career that could make you a billionaire considered as geeky?

A study released today by think-tank Reform reported that, since 1990, a "lost generation" of nearly 440,000 pupils had given up maths after GCSEs at a total cost to the economy of £9b. It blamed decades of ‘dumbing down’ where GCSE maths had become little more than a "tick-box test" with pupils needing under 20% to gain a grade C in the top paper . It added that teenagers who dropped the subject at A-level missed out on £136,000 in lifetime earnings from top City jobs.

Reform deputy director Elizabeth Truss said: "In today's Britain it is acceptable to say that you can't do maths, whereas people would be ashamed to admit they couldn't read. We need a cultural revolution to transform maths from geek to chic."

You can read more in The Times Can’t do attitude to maths ‘has cost economy £9b’

My other beef over the last few years is that even when our young people get the right qualifications they can't find the 'entry level' jobs in the UK IT sector. This was evidenced again recently in a study by ATSCo - See Financial Times 26th May 08 - Overseas moves cut IT salaries . The skill shortage in our sector now is for those with 5+ years experience; particularly Project Managers. Few UK employers are taking on raw recruits - preferring to get those 'entry level' jobs undertaken in India and other offshore locations. Those few raw recruits that are taken on have seen entry level salaries static for the last few years - not the greatest incentive to "Get into IT".

So, in a few years, the only people with 5+ years experience will come from India - as will the new wave of Project Managers we so need.

So with declining STEM education and few entry level IT jobs, the UK seems to be sleepwalking its way into IT oblivion. Let's just hope there are enough media-oriented jobs to go around...

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