F4S Response to the Industrial Strategy White Paper

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Earlier this year, with your help, Founders4Schools submitted a detailed response to the Government Green Paper Building our Industrial Strategy. Yesterday (27 November 2017) the Industrial Strategy White Paper was published, and I am delighted that many of the areas we highlighted as key components of a purposeful growth plan have been picked up and investment promised.

Founders4Schools welcomes the Industrial Strategy, signalling a Fourth Industrial Revolution ‘characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.’

Particularly:

  • The focus on skills, productivity and R&D, which includes the harnessing of AI and big data;
  • The commitment to partnerships across business and government that scale up the technical skills we need for job creation – for this generation, and the next;
  • The announcement of significant investments over the next few years. We would argue that the release of funds should come sooner rather than later to enable technology to start to deliver on the promise.

In recent weeks the Prime Minister and Chancellor have stressed their commitment to supporting the UK’s world-class tech sector.  I am particularly encouraged by the focus in the Industrial Strategy on helping young people to do the newly-skilled jobs of the future; creating the conditions for young people to grow successful businesses, and for the opportunity for partnerships between government and industry that will harness AI and big data to solve our biggest challenges.

Our vision at Founders4Schools is singularly focused on the career prospects of our young people. We want to enable a generation of entrepreneurial thinkers with relevant skills who can raise productivity, at a time when our nation faces into the biggest socio-economic re-think for generations. All new jobs are coming from companies less than four years old and this is set to continue. Our insight is that better results come from connecting young people with business leaders in the local community.

We particularly welcome the Grand Challenge of putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and the data revolution, and look forward to engaging with the Business Champions and external advisors who will be appointed in early 2018 to lead this thinking. We welcome the profile that AI and machine learning has achieved and the recognition of their role in transforming business models across sectors by identifying better ways to do complex tasks.

The Industrial Strategy has much good news for the digital sector. We welcome the additional £725m funding available through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to maximise the value of innovative ideas being developed, and the opportunity to launch an expression of interest in 2018. Also, the additional £44m of grant funding from Innovate UK, and the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund to support the development of innovative approaches to emerging technologies. The drive to foster, attract and retain the best and brightest research talent through Turing Fellowships, PhDs and Master level qualifications is good news, as is the announcement for an industry-led AI Council that can take a leadership role across sectors, working in partnership with the new Gov-Tech Catalyst and would welcome the expansion of their remit to include education.

There are enormous opportunities for these initiatives in the education space. At Founders4Schools we have integrated information sources and AI technologies successfully to make recommendations to educators, so they can arrange student-employer encounters based on their preferred criteria in just minutes.

In our response to the Green Paper we called for the release of LEO, HMRC and NPD datasets to allow us to scale quickly and build a picture of the future labour market and enable schools to move more quickly through Gatsby benchmarks for career guidance.  We look forward to sharing learnings and support the setting of standards to ensure the secure, trusted use of data.

We note that 40% of employers reported a lack of STEM graduates: – According to the Scale-Up Institute, 90% of scaleup businesses are concerned about a lack of skills post-Brexit. We know that when business leaders, particularly women, take part in Student-Employer interactions – of which we have now facilitated over 250,000 – likelihood of them taking up STEM subjects increases threefold and 86% are less likely to become NEET.

We are delighted the Government has recognised the vital importance of Skills within the Industrial Strategy. We welcome the investment of an additional £406 million in maths, digital and technical skills (with an extra £40m to train maths teachers) including £84 million over the next five years to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers by the end of this Parliament. We also welcome the new National Centre for Computing Education, and the recognition that the UK’s world-class creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy and are heavily reliant on STEM skills.

As mentioned above, we believe we can help the Government to ‘deepen the understanding of the gender disparity in STEM subject choices at ages 16 to 19’, if data regarding STEM subjects is released, by institution and subject. Also interesting are plans to explore (building on the work of the Skills Advisory Panels and local Digital Skills Partnerships in England) how data analytics can be used to improve our understanding of employer demand for skills.

At Founders4Schools, we can combine many of these objectives. By sharing National Pupil’s Database (NPD) data via an API, we can unlock information about local jobs that specifically require STEM skills and help teachers to provide critical feedback to share with everyone about what works.

As we said in our initial response, the introduction of new T Levels from 2020 is a great step forward, with the commitment of putting technical education on the same footing as our academic system. We welcome the additional £20m investment announced in the Budget Statement last week. T Levels will give young people more options, with structured programmes including work experience which will help them take advantage of new prospects, particularly in deprived areas. Further, the commitment to addressing employer and student needs and expectations through the creation of a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS) is a step forward.

We also recognise the value created by the investments in the new Institute of Coding, the Ada, National College for Digital Skills and new digital platforms to expand the reach of STEM Ambassador and CREST Awards programmes.

But many teachers, as well as their students, need to upgrade their digital skills, so F4S welcomes the establishment of a National Retraining Scheme to help people re-skill and up-skill as the economy changes. Also, the investment of £30m to test the use of AI and innovative education technology (EdTEch) in online digital skills courses.

We agree that ‘our problem is not unemployment caused by technology, it is low earning power caused by the, among other reasons, a failure to use technology’. Our focus is on helping teachers to become more digital and therefore help their students become more productive.

EdTech offers the ideal solution for this and we have proposed a new coalition for careers education in schools by creating a digital toolkit and guidance that will enable up to 500,000 educators across the UK working in primary education, to feel more confident about understanding and preparing their students for the world of work.

We welcome the Government’s significant investment into R&D that has commercial application and so has a bearing on productivity. Our leadership in the 2017 European Innovation Scorecard is impressive.  We would argue that significant investment is taking place by the forward-thinking business leaders to who come to speak on our behalf in schools. But these growing businesses need support to grow.

At Founders 4 Schools, we agree with the need to ensure that the national system works across the country, making a real difference in areas of most need. We focus our services in the Government’s Opportunity Areas, where we aim to address regional disparities and break down barriers that widen socio-economic divides that increase young people in NEET categories and reduce their chances for further education. We work closely with devolved government, LEP’s and the Careers and Enterprise Company, as well with business leaders in these areas.

We therefore welcome the investment of £72m in the Opportunity Areas programme and £42m to pilot a Teacher Development Premium, allowing for high quality professional development for teachers in areas that have fallen behind. We also look forward to seeing the Local Industrial Strategies emerge, and can work with Government to identify how the greater access to technical education in these areas can help raise employability skills.

Our approach is one of partnership – between educators, businesses, local government, devolved administrations – to achieve goals. We believe this is the only way to achieve the kind of scale we need to up-skill young people and prepare them for the world of work. The launch of Workfinder – our mobile app to connect 16-18 year-olds with work experience in their local area is just one example, and we welcome the Government’s focus on helping to increase the number of students who undertake work experience to develop their professional skills and ways of accrediting work experience in degrees.

There is an urgent need to accelerate the transformation, or we will leave a generation behind while we figure out what to do next. Many of us are already making substantive progress. The Industrial Strategy provides an excellent framework for progress, if the Government directs and releases finances for us NOW to move ahead and deliver. We want to continue to be part of that change that improves living standards and economic growth across the country

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