Prince's Trust: Poor IT skills hurt youth job chances says he was intimidated by science at school, but is now taking a computer science course

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A lack of computer skills could be damaging the career chances of young people, a charity has warned.

More than one in 10 young people do not think their computer skills are good enough to use in the job they want, the Prince's Trust said.

The research follows a £500,000 donation by hip hop star to the Trust last year.

His donation will be used on projects to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills.

"I was intimidated by science and advanced maths," said the music star, who donated his fee for appearing on BBC talent show The Voice.

"When I say, 'Hey kids, you guys should want to be scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians...' I say that because I too am going to school to learn computer science.

"I'm taking a computer science course, because I'm passionate about where the world's going, curious about it and I want to contribute," he told the BBC.


The Prince's Trust research was based on interviews with 1,378 British 15-to-25-year-olds, including 265 "Neets" - those not in education, employment or training.

One in 10 unemployed young people cannot send their CV online, while a quarter say they "dread" filling in online job applications, the survey found.

A tenth of Neets said they were embarrassed by their lack of computer skills, and 17% admitted they do not apply for jobs that require basic computer skills.

Start Quote

There remains a postcode lottery, with some schools providing barely more than an hour a week of computer access”

End Quote Valerie Thompson E-Learning Foundation

The research was released to mark the launch of a new Prince's Trust scheme to engage young people in schools with science and technology.

Under the scheme, staff from the Science Museum will visit Prince's Trust clubs in schools to work with young people at risk of exclusion and under-achievement.

"We work with the hardest-to-reach pupils, who may not have access to a computer at home, and often don't have basic IT skills," said Martina Milburn, the Prince's Trust chief executive.

"The Trust is using's generous donation to engage these young people in science and technology while they're still at school.

"We're also giving young people more access to IT to support them into work, and helping more unemployed young people set up technology-related businesses."

'Postcode lottery'

Valerie Thompson from the E-Learning Foundation, which aims to provide learning technologies to children both at home and at school, said that while's donation was "fantastic", there remained "a very significant challenge".

"That [donation] would buy 2,000 children an iPad, and we've got 750,000 children who can't get online at home," she told the BBC.

"This wouldn't be so bad if they had great access at school, but there remains a postcode lottery, with some schools providing barely more than an hour a week of computer access. No wonder they lack the skills to prepare a good CV!"

She added that there is money in the system which could be used to improve computer access at schools, pointing to the pupil premium, which is paid to schools to support disadvantaged pupils, rising to £1.875bn in 2013-14, or £900 per disadvantaged child.

"So the solution is there if schools are prepared to use the new discretionary powers they now have over what to spend their budgets on," she said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Trying to keep pace with all the latest platforms, apps, online publishing tools and online sales methods is a nightmare. I tried running an online company for 3 years: it was like trying to catch birds using my bare hands. What to sell, how to sell, what device, what app, what tool, what programming language? Every day brings a new technology. I pity anyone trying to learn computing today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Teachers waste vast amounts of money buying brand name software. If they had an ounce of IT knowledge they could obtain open source software for free. Students don't stand a chance while teachers are so clueless about IT basics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    "That [donation] would buy 2,000 children an iPad"

    iPad. That is the root of the problem.

    Kids these days are so driven by peer pressure that only the most expensive gadget available is acceptable.

    They wouldn't be seen dead in the playground with a nice cheap Android device - they'd rather go without, and their IT skills fall short.

    My kids will be given Android, like it or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Low IT skills apart, a good case can be made for making online form filling a good deal more understandable. Some, including certain from, defy comprehension. Perhaps a bit of standardisation wouldn't go amiss. Clear, unequivocal language would certainly help too. It isn't always as clear as it is made out to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I agree with 4.FreeSpeech

    An Ipad is an over priced, limited tool that you cannot use properly to gain I.T skills. Angry birds will not get you anywhere in life

    The Raspberry Pi how ever is an extremely cheap, learning tool (what it's designed for) that teaches children (and adults) how to do computer code.

    2,000 Ipads


    20,000 - 33,333 (depends on type A or type B) raspberry pi's

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    What is school for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Britain needs to engage more actively in STEM education, and although this government has taken measures, more is needed to maintain the enthusiasm in the younger generations. As wealth shifts to the east, only our higher education system will continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world, but will only do so with further increases to investment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    iPads? If you want kids to learn, don't give them overpriced closed platform devices.... This is stupidity on an epic scale!!

    I left school with very poor IT skills, because I wasn't in the "privileged" group I didnt get to use a PC. 4 years later i'd self taught myself everything I needed to know, 6 years later I was a prominant contributor on 8 different IT related forums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Look around you: society today in the UK values far more occupations around verbosity and salesmanship than it does those about making things. The path to success as sold to young people is either through luck (celebrity, footballer) or finding better ways to get money out of your fellow man (finance, sales).

    So Engineering is not cool, Law, Finance and Management are cool.

    Hence, low IT skills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    "That [donation] would buy 2,000 children an iPad, and we've got 750,000 children who can't get online at home," she told the BBC.

    Forget buying them iPads, buy them Raspberry Pi's instead. Jeesh, what is it with these people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Back in 1988 I got a job with a top IT company who gave me solid training to become a programmer. That training set me of into a great career in IT. Today these opportunities are not available because companies just ship over per-trained Programmers from India. Companies must stop importing skills and start building skills. These are great jobs we are throwing away to another counties nationals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    What's this mania for giving iPads to kids?
    There are many good Android alternatives out there costing FAR less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This is not surprising considering the horrible quality of ICT classes at schools. Having graduated from A-levels in the last 4 years, I can say from experience that we need to greatly improve ICT training and learning. Learning word, excel and powerpoint was fine a decade ago, but now we should teach database and programming to ICT classes. Or at least basic networking.


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