From education to employment

STEM subjects are key to cementing our digital standing

Massimo Merlo, VP of EMEA Enterprise and Regional VP of UK&I at Veeam

August in the UK is typically a busy month; school holidays are in full swing, the English Premier League is back and A-Level results are released. Just like the many students across the country who received word of their good grades, there was welcome news that STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects are on the rise – a development that has also been hailed by the government and as “boding well for the economic prosperity of our country.” The focus on so-called STEM subjects has been a cornerstone of British education policy for some years now. These are the bedrock of professions that will drive our economy. And the focus is paying off. The UK has one of the best digital economies of any country in the world, ahead of the US and the rest of Western Europe. That’s according to a study from Mastercard and The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Improving our digital skillset

For the UK to sustain its position as a global digital hub, it must have a solid talent pool for future challenges like the fourth industrial revolution. There, many people will be needed for jobs that haven’t even been dreamt up yet, let alone had a course created to support them. Therefore, the fundamentals of STEM courses are a vital foundation to support these future roles. Now we need the UK government to support this movement and ensure a diverse range of students pursue STEM courses not just at levels three, four, and five, but beyond to create higher-skilled STEM students. Innovations such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and smart cities won’t become a mainstream reality with the nation’s digital skillset being improved in tandem.

It’s not just futuristic technologies which will require attention. There still remains work to be done to ensure that current IT services remain uninterrupted. Consumers have come to take for granted the fact that everyday technologies such as instant messaging, contactless payments and our best-loved apps ‘just happen.’ When your favourite site is down or has been hacked, the IT guys behind the scene aren’t switching things off and on again. It takes more than Ctrl + Alt + Del to fix the problem. Thankfully, there exists technology which is able recover services in a timely and efficient manner and gets all systems up and running again. Imagine not being able to order your favourite takeaway on Deliveroo or stranded in the middle of nowhere and can’t connect with an Uber driver? Or even worse, the UCAS website goes down the day A-Level results are released. Disaster! These may be trivial examples but in today’s connected world, users expect a seamless Digital Life. That mean’s constant connectivity and availability, from anytime and anywhere.

Expectations of an Always-On World

To meet the expectations of an always-on world, it’s imperative that business and government leaders ask questions of their digital transformation plans and begin to look at the next-generation of tech-savvy STEM students who are coming through the ranks. Maintaining availability of data is a relatively easy win with the right people and technologies in place.

The data outages and system failures that have become headline news such as WhatsApp, British Airways and Amazon Web Services, come as UK businesses and bodies remain incapable of meeting employee and end-user expectations for services, applications, and other data to be constantly online. While some businesses are succeeding in improving their efforts, these increased expectations, combined with an evolving IT landscape, continue to create significant challenges. However, today’s results indicate that the UK is prepared to meet this challenge.

It was certainly pleasing to see an uptake in the number of students taking STEM subjects this year. It’s important to note that at Veeam we do look for people beyond STEM education backgrounds, as there are other skills such as problem solving, communications, possessing an inquisitive and analytical mind, creative ideas, which are vital for a career at technology company, but perhaps not as a systems engineer – there a technical brain really can’t be escaped. If you can’t talk the language and possess a deep understanding, you can only get so far with technology engineering itself.

The opportunity to nurture the next generation of digital warriors starts in the classroom and today’s results, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, are a step in the right direction for cementing the UK’s standing as a digital leader.

Massimo Merlo, VP of EMEA Enterprise and Regional VP of UK&I at Veeam

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