From education to employment

The UK can lead the world on green, digital growth by making lifelong learning the norm

Rachid Hourizi MBE

Professor Rachid Hourizi MBE of the Institute of Coding calls for an increased focus on allowing people to digitally upskill throughout their lives to meet the technological challenges of the future.

WITH the next general election a matter of months away, the main parties will be shaping their manifestos early in the new year.

There has rightly been much discussion about the need to grow the economy and boost the UK’s productivity.  But while policymakers seemingly support these principles already, there is much still to be done to put ideas into practice – and to get people into the high skilled jobs they need.

Supported by major tech industry leaders and social mobility organisations, including the CEOs of Microsoft UK and Social Mobility Foundation, the Institute of Coding has called for a national commitment to driving tech skills, brought about by increasing support for lifelong digital learning.

For the UK to stay ahead of big global challenges including the race to net zero and the advance of artificial intelligence, our country will need a workforce which is ready to work alongside new technology. 

Working carbon reduction into every workplace decision will become as commonplace as basic monetary budgeting skills. Meanwhile, the role of AI in the workplace of the 2030s will be every bit as transformative as the role of personal computing was in the 1990s.

That means we need to start planning for the jobs of the future now. For example, when talking about our climate aspirations for 2030, or even 2050, employers, educators and industry, we must all be thinking about the green digital skills we need for the future of renewables and environmental engineering.

The Institute of Coding’s close collaboration between educators, industry and employers is a strong model of joined up support, which looks carefully at meeting national and regional needs and tackling inequalities. Part of our approach is about listening to what employers need, and the barriers job seekers face, with a joined-up programme of action in response, to help increase access to tech sector opportunities across the UK.

This way of working helps us to tackle national and regional skills gaps, and unemployment, by ensuring companies can take on local talent and help their businesses grow. Many of the Institute of Coding’s learners come from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds and have experienced barriers to education, employment and training.

Meanwhile more than 3.6 million Brits aged between 50 and 66 are economically inactive.  It makes both economic and moral sense to ensure digital skills are not a barrier to this hugely experienced and talented group staying in – or getting back into – work. More diverse workplaces are inherently more successful since a range of experience – professional and personal – can make a team greater than the sum of its parts.

Learning can be done around – rather than instead of – full time work too.  Most programmes offer hybrid and flexible learning options, allowing learners to fit their studies around professional and caring commitments.

The Institute of Coding is proud to have supported more than one million learners to boost their digital skills so far, helping many to embark on new tech careers later in life. But we see that as just the beginning.  With 870,000 tech vacancies in the UK unfilled, we see the need for an ever growing of pipeline of digital learners.

When it comes to the green jobs of the future, we should be aiming to prevent shortages now by putting in place the learning opportunities needed by tomorrow’s workforce.

By making 2024 the year Britain turns to lifelong learning as a rule not an exception, we can build long-term skills capacity for our country and prepare to lead the world on green, digital growth.

By Professor Rachid Hourizi MBE is Director of the Institute of Coding, based at the University of Bath.

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