Posted on September 30, 2016 by staff

Students need “bridge” into companies to counter skills gap


Tech students who aren’t gaining the skills they need in the workplace need “more of a bridge to companies”.

That is the view of George Sanderson, co-founder of Manchester-based start-up Unique Insights, which uses machine learning to identify students at risk of dropping out of university.

Sanderson, who says drop-outs are “a whopping £750 million problem”, and Jamie Rawsthorne had the idea while studying entrepreneurship in Bristol and their business launched officially with the start of the current academic year.

“There needs to be more of a bridge that connects the students to companies,” he told an education roundtable.

However it is not the major players on the tech scene that students need to be fed into.

“The big scale-ups or companies with massive seed funding are not where I’d send them,” he continued.

“It’s the smaller start-ups where the students can learn.”

Now based in Spinningfields in the Northern tech cluster, they are being mentored by Wakelet founder and CEO Jamil Khalil.

Lawrence Jones, co-founder and CEO of Manchester-based managed hosting firm UKFast, says his company have been connecting with students for a decade.

“Ten years ago, UKFast got involved in schools and we did work experience: some of those kids now are running departments, on big salaries, having come through an apprenticeship programme,” he said.

“We realised that the kids coming out of schools and universities were not tooled up correctly, so we got involved with Manchester Metropolitan University – an amazing, forward-thinking place.

“We’re now doing an MSc with them while we’ve worked with something like 40,000 school kids across Manchester.

“If you want technology, plug into ours, come plug into the environment we’ve got. It’s cutting-edge stuff.”

The same roundtable heard that there is a “huge discrepancy” in the experience of teachers delivering tech education in the UK.

Stuart Lynn, CTO of Newcastle-based accountancy software giant Sage, told BusinessCloud in a separate interview that apprenticeships offer a fantastic alternative to the traditional education pathway.

“Apprenticehips are coming back as alternatives to a pure academic route,” he said.

“We’ve got choices now for people who are not privileged enough to go to university. And not everyone wants to go to university – but they want to learn, and they want to get into industry.”

He added: “Getting students into businesses gives them the flavour of whether they have made the right choice.

“How many people, with hindsight, might have chosen a different path?

“We’re trying to respond to the skills shortage in the North East: Sunderland University is very connected with business now to find what are the skills needed that we can teach in academia, rather than a theoretical language which is no good to anyone when a student leaves college.”