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Leading the UK's digital revolution

Leeds Beckett University is working with tech giant IBM on a ground-breaking national education project to provide digital skills for the future.

ibm ptech The P-TECH (Pathways in Technology) programme, initially involving pupils from Leeds City College and two high schools, will be coordinated and evaluated by Leeds Beckett University.

Established by IBM and local educators in Brooklyn, New York in 2011, the P-TECH model provides students - largely in disadvantaged communities - with a viable career path in today’s increasingly digitised economy.

The model combines traditional secondary school approaches with tertiary education, structured work experiences, and paid internship opportunities provided by employer partners.

The Leeds-based programme starts in September and will be the first of its kind in the UK following successful student outcomes in markets as diverse as Australia, Morocco and Taiwan.

Dr Steve Burton, Director of Teaching Innovation in the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, said: “We believe the UK pilot has potential to deliver similar results, and we’re excited to work with our P-TECH partners to help the UK’s educationally disadvantaged students and tackle the growing digital skills gap.

“It is hoped the P-TECH initiative will make a strong contribution to social mobility, as it creates the pathways for progression whilst students are still in school.”

Students on the course will aspire to graduate with a Level 4 qualification, such as BTEC or HNC, which enables them to immediately enter a competitive entry-level job or further pursue higher education.

Professor Damien Page, Dean of the Carnegie School of Education, said: “This is an exciting project for the Leeds region.

“The prospect of developing a curriculum which fuses everything that is excellent about education, with bespoke digital and industrial input from organisations such as IBM for local youngsters has enormous potential to improve the life chances of young people in our area.”

P-TECH is coming to the UK at a pivotal time in education. The European Commission estimates that by 2020 the gap between the demand and supply of ICT specialists in the EU will be around 500,000.

Meanwhile, because UK school systems are primarily designed to enable progression to university, many young people can find themselves excluded from professional “new collar jobs” due to a lack of qualifications and employability skills.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, said: “We want Leeds to be the best city for children and young people to grow up in, and are very proud to be the first city in the UK to be involved in P-TECH, which we believe has the potential to offer better futures for young people.

“This innovative and exciting initiative brings together schools, further and higher education establishments and employers to address the skills gap by building a workforce with the technical and professional skills required by businesses in the city. This is vitally important for the future competitiveness and sustainability of Leeds and helps to address the issue of social mobility.”

Commenting on the announcement of the P-TECH programme, Margot James, Minister for Digital and Creative Industries, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Developing the next generation of tech talent is vital if we are to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy.

“Through IBM’s initiative and our Digital Strategy, we will continue working with industry to inspire the talent of tomorrow and give some of the country’s brightest young minds the chance to learn digital skills and thrive in the future economy."
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