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P-TECH Leading the UK’s digital revolution

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Tech giant IBM has revealed a ground-breaking UK education project to provide digital skills for the future.

The P-TECH (Pathways in Technology) programme, initially involving pupils from Leeds City College and two high schools, will be coordinated and evaluated by Leeds Beckett University.

Established by IBM and local educators in Brooklyn, New York in 2011, the P-TECH model provides students – largely in disadvantaged communities – with a viable career path in today’s increasingly digitised economy.

The model combines traditional secondary school approaches with tertiary education, structured work experiences, and paid internship opportunities provided by employer partners.

The Leeds-based programme starts in September and will be the first of its kind in the UK following successful student outcomes in markets as diverse as Australia, Morocco and Taiwan.

Commenting on the announcement of the P-TECH programme, Margot James, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“Developing the next generation of tech talent is vital if we are to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy.

“Through IBM’s initiative and our Digital Strategy, we will continue working with industry to inspire the talent of tomorrow and give some of the country’s brightest young minds the chance to learn digital skills and thrive in the future economy.”

Speaking about the initiative, Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, said,

“Time and time again, CBI members tell us that one of the biggest challenges they face is access to the right skills as new technologies and demands transform the UK economy.  Initiatives like the P-TECH model show businesses are stepping up, equipping young people with the necessary skills to prepare them for the modern world.”

Dr Steve Burton, Director of Teaching Innovation in the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, said:

“We believe the UK pilot has potential to deliver similar results, and we’re excited to

work with our P-TECH partners to help the UK’s educationally disadvantaged students and tackle the growing digital skills gap.

“It is hoped the P-TECH initiative will make a strong contribution to social mobility, as it creates the pathways for progression whilst students are still in school.”

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Students on the course will aspire to graduate with a Level 4 qualification, such as BTEC or HNC, which enables them to immediately enter a competitive entry-level job or further pursue higher education.

Professor Damien Page, Dean of the Carnegie School of Education, said:

“This is an exciting project for the Leeds region.

“The prospect of developing a curriculum which fuses everything that is excellent about education, with bespoke digital and industrial input from organisations such as IBM for local youngsters has enormous potential to improve the life chances of young people in our area.”

P-TECH is coming to the UK at a pivotal time in education. The European Commission estimates that by 2020 the gap between the demand and supply of ICT specialists in the EU will be around 500,000.

Meanwhile, because UK school systems are primarily designed to enable progression to university, many young people can find themselves excluded from professional “new collar jobs” due to a lack of qualifications and employability skills.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, said:

“We want Leeds to be the best city for children and young people to grow up in, and are very proud to be the first city in the UK to be involved in P-TECH, which we believe has the potential to offer better futures for young people.

“This innovative and exciting initiative brings together schools, further and higher education establishments and employers to address the skills gap by building a workforce with the technical and professional skills required by businesses in the city.  This is vitally important for the future competitiveness and sustainability of Leeds and helps to address the issue of social mobility.”

Speaking about P-TECH, Julian David, CEO of techUK said,

“techUK is delighted to see IBM launch their P-TECH education model here in the UK. The world of work is changing fast and it is heartening to see industry giants like IBM helping the UK prepare for that change by offering new, innovative pathways for students into tech roles.

“Today’s digital skills gap is estimated to cost the UK £63bn in lost GDP every year, so with around 7 million AI jobs forecast to be created in the UK alone by 2037, this will require efforts being made now to ensure the UK can meet that need.

“It is vital that as we close that gap we ensure we do it in a way that increases the diversity of the workforce. IBM’s P-TECH does just this by targeting disadvantaged students who might otherwise never find their way to a career in tech.”

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