Chief Data Officer, Telefonica.
Digital technology is shaping our world in ways previous generations would have found inconceivable. There’s barely a part of our day that hasn’t been affected or enhanced in some way: from swiping through the news over breakfast, to Snapchatting a friend from the pub after work. With our lives made easier by an increasing number of apps, younger generations (including my own) are often described as being more ‘tech-savvy’ than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. Few would argue this is not the case, but there is a significant distinction between being a user and being a developer.
This leads to the question: how well-equipped is our generation? Have we spontaneously created a generation of master coders, or are we in fact just better at adapting to new technologies thanks to our relative youth? More importantly, what are we at Telefonica doing to build the educational foundations for a well-equipped digital workforce?
At Telefonica UK we’ve raised concerns over the lack of confidence amongst parents about encouraging their children to pursue careers in the growing digital sector. The Confederation of British Industry has also called for a boost in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) education in light of what it calls a ‘growing skills vacuum’. The European Commission has echoed the sentiment and highlighted a digital skills shortfall across the countries of the European Union.
For those who evangelise the transformative powers of technology, these reports will prove challenging. Fears of a digital divide fuelling social exclusion will only be compounded unless something is done. Thankfully the future is looking far brighter than these reports make out, as multiple stakeholders across industry and society (including us) are working to make things better.
There are lots of great posts on this site about what we at Telefonica and Think Big are doing across all the countries in which we operate; I’m going to give you a snapshot of how we’re equipping a digital generation in a set of wet and windy islands also known as the UK.
Graduate employees in our Slough offices, concerned with low female participation in STEM jobs, have held coding workshops for local high-school girls supported by Think Big School and the Telefonica Women’s Network. They’ve named the sessions T&Tech, for nothing in Britain is complete without tea. It’s a really great way to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers and address the industry’s gender imbalance. They’ve received very positive feedback from participants and parents for their efforts.
Members of our Operations directorate have held Learn to <Code/> sessions using Raspberry Pis for employees and their children as part of Think Big, they’ve gone down a storm and there is high demand for more. Our other Think Big School events in schools across the UK are proving highly popular amongst pupils, parents, and our Telefonica volunteers.
Such positive feedback goes to show how much events such as these raise awareness of the importance of digital skills amongst pupils, teachers, and parents alike. The UK government has also taken heed of the growing demand for digital skills and has increased the amount of digital literacy taught in the new national curriculum. It’s encouraging to see that Telefonica’s efforts through Think Big and other volunteering activities are having an impact at the local and national level.
There’s no doubt that challenges lie ahead for the current generation, however the positive steps we at Telefónica are taking will play a part in bridging the digital divide and solving the digital skills shortage. The future looks brighter and more digital than many would have you believe.
Phil Downs, Operations Graduate – Service Management, Telefónica UK Limited