Gov will make digital skills a core subject for post-GCSE pupils

Tech skills will be taught in college programme or apprenticeships under new strategy

Digital skills will become a core subject alongside English and Maths under a government plan to improve teenagers' path to jobs.

The Post-16 Skills Plan, announced today by the Department of Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, follows a review of technical education in the UK.

It will see post-GCSE students enter one of two pathways - a technical or academic pathway. The technical pathway loosely equates to training via apprenticeship or a two-year college programme, while the academic pathway comprises traditional A-levels.

Digital skills forms one of the core subjects on the technical pathway, as well as English and Maths, with more particular skillsets bolted on depending on which of 15 technical streams a teenager decides to enter, applicable to GCSE pupils sitting their exams from 2019. Employers will be responsible for setting the standards and content of each route.

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The Post-16 Skills Plan document read: "As well as good literacy and numeracy, everyone needs an essential set of digital skills to succeed in the modern workplace, and these digital skills will be built into the common core.

"Beyond this, digital skills requirements should be tailored, and employer panels will be in the lead to specify digital skills which are required for entry into particular groups of skilled occupations."

The departments are working "in parallel" on a digital strategy to improve digital skills for publication later this year, the document said.

Fred Rayers, a member of the Digital Apprenticeship Standards Steering Group, said: "Digital skills are essential for the UK's future prosperity in the global economy. A dedicated digital pathway will give young people entering work the chance to develop the knowledge and understanding that employers need.

"Putting digital skills in every qualification will ensure that no one is left behind in an increasingly digital world."

Karen Price, CEO of digital skills advocate Tech Partnership, also welcomed the plan. "Employers have already been collaborating to put in place high quality apprenticeships, and these offer a great start to digital careers in companies of all sizes and sectors. This experience can be put to good use in helping to offer young people inspiring post-16 pathways within the education system," she said.

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"Equipped with qualifications that employers genuinely value, these workers of tomorrow can add value right away, and have the opportunity to progress to apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and beyond."

TechUK, the trade industry body, warned last year that the UK must do more to close the digital skills gap, which it predicted will grow to 750,000 tech vacancies by 2017.

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