O2 to tackle tech ‘skills gap’ with new schools initiative

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Operator’s ‘Think Big Schools’ scheme aims to get 14- to 18-year-olds ‘workplace ready’

O2 has said it is taking steps to bridge the technology skills gap in the UK by teaching 14- to 18-year-olds how to write computer code and pitch business ideas.

Speaking in London earlier this month, O2 CEO Ronan Dunne (pictured) said the operator’s recently launched ‘Think Big Schools’ initiative, which kicked off in April, is an opportunity for the company to ensure the next generation is workplace-ready.

The national programme, which sees O2 partner with Young Enterprise, a national charity founded to link schools to industry, will involve 3,000 school and college students taking part in two-day workshops.

The UK has been chosen as the test bed for the programme before a wider international launch in other countries where Telefónica has a presence.

Dunne said: “I’ve heard it said that in future only three languages will matter: English, Mandarin and code.

“Think Big Schools is an education process focused on enabling young people with digital skills for the workplace – so we are working to bridge the gap between knowledge and being work-ready.

“Business models should be informed by sustainable self-interest, and we see the Think Big Schools programme as one way we can harness the digital opportunity.”

Survey

During the event, O2 unveiled the results of its research into the 18- to 30-year-olds market, or ‘millennials’. This revealed more than three quarters (76 per cent) of respondents believe having technology skills and access to these makes it easier to get a job.

It showed UK respondents deem an education in technology to be more important to success than any other subject. A quarter (25 per cent) of people said technology was crucial, compared to 18 per cent for economics and science, and eight per cent for languages.

Telefónica chief operating officer José María Álvarez-Pallete said the UK government should also work to close the skills gap by ensuring everyone has access to technology education.

He said Telefónica feels responsible for helping prepare young people for the workplace.

Álvarez-Pallete said: “Politicians all around the world need to realise technology is influencing the world. The government needs to close the skills gap in Europe so everybody has access to education.

“Helping the transition from school to employment – this is what is expected of us as well as being a leading operator.”

Digital divide

As well as bridging the skills gap, Dunne also spoke of how O2 will close the ‘digital divide’ – or disparities in access to technology.

Dunne said its launch of 4G services, expected at the end of summer, will be instrumental in ensuring mobile connectivity is ubiquitous in the UK.

In the recent auction of 4G licences, O2 acquired the only spectrum that came with a coverage obligation – meaning the company will have to provide connectivity to 98 per cent of the population.

Dunne said this meant the new superfast technology would “democratise” access to mobile broadband – as the UK would have a comprehensive 4G network as well as 2G and 3G networks.

As a result, Dunne said, 4G “will be much more disruptive than even fixed line ever was” in terms of the impact it will have on people’s lives.

He said: “What we have to do is create digital capabilities as well as infrastructure – 4G is well placed to do that. It is the last mile, it makes mobile broadband ubiquitous.

“4G will enable the democratisation of access points, as we will have it alongside 2G and 3G access. And we have the 98 per cent coverage obligation.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 541 (June 17, 2013).

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