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 153.

    The problem is that everything is facilitated via prepackaged software now and there has been a massive decline in the demand to need to know how something works, because there are more and more applications that do it all for you.

    Knowing how to use a computer is completely different to understanding how it all works and understanding it is the important part.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    144. Artemesia

    Er yes having a decent working knowledge of Windows and Office IS basic computer skills and is what most employers are looking for. They are not looking for a genius in Computer Science just somebody who can use Windows Explorer and Copy/Paste ,use Word/Excel/Powerpoint and, perhaps, easily pick up and use other Windows based programmes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Help your kids by them a Rasberry Pi and a soldering iron. Do not rely on individuals reading one page ahead in a Microsoft Manual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    @ 140
    "We desperately need more computer programming graduates in this country."

    No we don't. We've got loads of grads and experienced professionals who are unemployed. They've been replaced by workers from overseas brought in on pretend 'intra-company transfers', to fill pretend 'skill shortages'. Because they're cheap. Want a career? Don't choose programming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Assuming the comments attributed to Valerie Thompson are correct I'd say she is a classic example of how you can get on without any IT skills or knowledge!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Some confusion over what is lacking IMO? The skills to type a good looking CV or submit online are not in my opinion IT skills. They are what used to be called "commercial" skills, remember the days when women (sexist I know) were taught to type. We need the equivalent level of training today. My wife worked in a college where NEETs couldn't fill in a PAPER form, computer science not a help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    IT skills (at the level needed to use in an office) are not that difficult to learn ... for someone who has basic maths and English language skills and a grounding in problem-solving. It's more important to teach kids the basic life skills than the intimate details of the Developer tab in Excel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Yes, Ipads - great for gaming or selling to buy drugs and alcohol - if not for mums and dads then the children.
    Very easy to steal.

    Charities spend millions of pounds of lottery funding for IT projects. Most of them ill conceived. The equipment either rots in cupboards as no one knows how to set them up properly, premises broken into and computers stolen or go walking out the door over time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Poor IT skills are mainly a result of indifference.

    There are school classes, friends who can help and centres that will also provide assistance.

    Today it is IT skills, next week numeracy and the week after literacy skills that will be lacking.

    For those with learning difficulties I have sympathy, for those lacking initiative I have none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    84.midlander -" There is no excuse for kids to leave school without basic IT skills (Windows/Office)..."

    I am au fait with Windows and Office, Excel and PowerPoint too but I would not claim to have even basic IT Skills

    What I have are Computer skills, there is a difference?

    Does basic IT Skills include elementary programming, some knowledge of Hardware, how the Internet works etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I am a real comp sci teacher. Since the early 90s the govt INSISTED that ICT be taught which might have been better if it had been Office skills but it was not even that good. Comp Sci IS on the way back but we have so far to go. Gove says he supports it - so why is it NOT one of the favoured A levels subjects in school league tables?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    File management skills, your spot on.

    Take modern devices, they organise your music for you into playlists by reading the file metadata, no need to place files in folders anymore. How does that translate to an office environment when your boss wants an important report placing in XYZ directory on the server?

    It's just IT for stupid people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Start addressing the poor literacy skills first.

    Without them IT skills etc are not capable of being achieved.

    Surely that is obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    We desperately need more computer programming graduates in this country. With the abstraction of computer technology through high level graphical interfaces such as Windows, there is less of a desire for young people to truly explore programming and aquire this valuable skill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I bet they all know how to find porn online!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    I'm a programmer who started off with Clive Sinclair's Basic.

    There's a reason why Nathan Barley was an idiot with his hand-held twit machine (read iPad).

    Kids need to realize how tough it actually is to build these devices from scratch; what's really going on in the box. Get the kids to write programs in C,; learn about electronics. Otherwise, we're just encouraging a generation of idiots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    I did a computer science class in 1995. We learned about basic representation of numbers in computers...bin, hex etc. These are the building blocks of ALL computers to this day & those classes put me on course for a career in microelectronics. This kind of class doesn't seem to be taught till uni now & I think the main reason is that teachers don't understand these concepts so they can't teach it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Companies don't like IT departments, they cost a lot and don't bring in any direct revenue. They need to realise that IT is essential to business and start training their IT staff.

    IT jobs are shocking. I have a first class IT degree and would struggle to get a decent job. They all want x years experience, expensive qualifications on top of degrees, unsociable hours but want to pay £6 an hour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    88.Tony Hannibal

    "...I can't take anyone seriously who wears sunglasses indoors... please tell me I'm not getting old! (I'm 31)."

    You are in the first flush of youth, my son: that look as briefly fashionable in the 1970's, Will.I.Am would have worked in machine shop, down a coal mine or at some other proper job, rather than being paid half a million quit for appearing on a "talent" show.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    It's wholly refreshing to see a celebrity give a damn about STEM..! :)

    If only more young people would follow this example and reject the "role models" who give the impression that it's fine to be an ignormaus as long as you have a nice tan or can play soccer.


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