Education & Family

Digital skills 'guard against job loss'

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Image caption Changing places: A customer service robot developed by Hitachi

Schools should put a greater emphasis on teaching digital technology - as millions of jobs could be swept away by automation, says former education secretary Lord Kenneth Baker.

Now chair of the Edge Foundation, Mr Baker says young people must be taught the skills for jobs of the future.

He warned that many white collar and professional jobs will be under threat from artificial intelligence.

"Jobs are being lost in professions we used to regard as careers for life."

Lord Baker has produced a report, the Digital Revolution, calling for the education system to respond to the way in which technological change will affect the future jobs market.

"The economy is changing at an unprecedented pace," he said.

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Image caption Lord Baker wants young people to have skills for a digital economy

"Artificial intelligence, robots, 3D printing and driverless vehicles will impact on sectors as varied as the legal profession, transport and construction."

Lord Baker, who heads the Edge charity, which promotes vocational education, says figures from the Bank of England show that automation could put 15 million jobs at risk.

But he warns that the provision of the necessary digital skills is "almost entirely absent from the core curriculum in mainstream schools".

The report calls for a stronger emphasis on work-related technical skills, linked to the impact of digital technology.


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Lord Baker says that schools should be able to teach computer science to GCSE, rather than modern languages, and wants at least half of all 16-year-olds to take the exam at that level.

He says that apprenticeships should be available from the age of 14, combining a "core academic curriculum with hands-on learning".

All primary schools should have 3D printers and design software, he says, and they should bring in outside experts to teach coding.

"We should not go back to a 19th Century diet of academic subjects for all. We need 21st Century education for a 21st Century economy," said Lord Baker.

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