Imagine being on a train, going to a destination that you know you will reach.
You know it will happen. You cannot get off at a station before you reach the end of the line.
But you also know that when you get there, you will not be prepared. You will not know your way around. You simply won’t have the skills.
This is what is happening with the UK in terms of the digital economy. We know that the future is digital. We know that a company without a website doesn’t get found. It effectively becomes a shop without a window front.
Digital is replacing many of the industries that have helped to make Britain great. Where the Victorians built factories and huge bridges, we need the web engineers of the future.
But, we’re not doing enough to equip young people with the right skills and experience.
And this worries me. Where will the future digital leaders come from? Chances are, America. Why? Look at Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Yahoo and more. American. These companies have changed the world. They have changed how people live their everyday lives.
In many ways, they’re great. But where are the UK leaders? The digital pioneers from the UK? Where are they going to come from if we are not nurturing the skills? There’s no doubt that we have the talent, and they are great companies out there, but are there enough?
We need the next game-changers to come from the UK. But we’re not doing enough to get the players to the top of the game.
Look around and you’ll see apprenticeships for all manner of sectors. From bricklayers, to lawyers. But you’ll rarely find an apprenticeship in digital.
Sure, there are hubs of innovation dotted around, but go into the average school and you’ll find, in general, a bottom-of-the class approach to digital.
They often do good work with the basics of learning, but we’re effectively scrawling chalk on slates when it comes to digital. We know this because when someone does something different to drive up the digital skills, it makes the news headlines.
It needs to be part of the norm. It needs to be everyday.
If it’s not, we will be on a charming but slow and clunky steam train when other countries will be on a squeaky clean, high-speed express. The UK simply cannot afford to be left behind.
We need to be pushing digital as part of the national curriculum from an early age. We need to be in colleges and schools, many of whom are open to doing things differently.
We need coding to go mainstream, not be the subject of a club or an after-school activity.
We needed developers getting exams in the subject. We must demand that our young people are given the right skills to lead the UK economy for the future.
And we must do it now, as we make the journey to digital.