When I was asked if I would give a careers talk at the recently opened North East Futures UTC, I said yes. I’m always happy to help in whatever way I can to bring young people into the North East’s technology sector and also like to get involved in new things that challenge me.
The fact that the school is housed in one of George Stephenson’s original locomotive works was also a draw. The Locomotion and Rocket were built there, as was, I guess, my obsession with all things railway.
The school has only just opened, specialising in IT and Health Science courses for 14-19 year olds. Dynamo North East is one of its partners and we have been supporting its development right from its inception and perhaps even before.
I had prepared my talk which was aimed at getting the students to think about both the skills that they need to work in technology and the wider types of jobs that are available to them. I estimate that less than a quarter of people working in tech actually work on the tools and skills such as communication, design, planning and engagement are more valuable in the long term. I asked them to think about these so-called soft skills and not to ignore them especially as they are working towards jobs that don’t yet exist. Technologies may come and go but humanity doesn’t.
I also described the opportunities in government, both local and national as there is a lack of understanding of what such organisations do and the role of technology in underpinning all their services.
When Tom asked me to give the talk, I was expecting a small class of a dozen or so. It turned out that I was to speak to the whole school and was faced with 150 pupils sitting on bleachers in the refurbished engine shed.
I tried hard to engage with the students but young people are a tough crowd. I did get some answers to my questions though and so hope that, in some small way, I got a bit of traction.
No pun intended!