Graham Hunter, VP of Skills, CompTIA

Ask a teenager today what they want to “be” when they grow up, and you will likely hear a pretty convincing one or two-word response. Dig a bit deeper and you may find that they have very little concept of what’s required to get there or the skills they’ll need to be successful in that job.

It’s a stark reality that goes far beyond the classroom and permeates IT workplaces in the form of the much-discussed skills gap.

While young people may have a great sense of what they’d like to aspire to, the Industrial Strategy Council published a report showing that England has a significant problem with basic literacy and numeracy skills in young people, and digital competency is in extremely short supply.

But importantly, it’s not the fault of young people.

Teaching for life-long application of knowledge and skills, workplace readiness and digital competency

Schools are, in many cases, teaching to the test and for the short term. Unfortunately, they’re not necessarily teaching for life-long application of knowledge and skills, or for workplace readiness and digital competency.

That short-sightedness is hurting young professional’s prospects, is widening the digital skills gap, and it’s certainly hurting our economy.

Rote memorisation and quick recall may serve one well on University Challenge, but in the workplace it’s application that matters, and that’s where the system seems to be failing young people (young people who are, coincidentally, far more ethnically and socio-economically diverse than those who might appear on University Challenge!).

The vicious cycle of learning and assessment

For children that are less academically-astute, the cycle of learning and assessment is a vicious one leading to feelings of poor self-worth and, over time, decreased motivation and then even worse academic performance.

We’ve seen where that path leads for too many: Unemployment > Underemployment > Criminal behaviour > Violence / Addiction

We’ve got to do better by young people. Why should a student’s failure in one or two subjects (which may be rooted in factors outside of school life) push them towards a life of lowered expectations, even lower wages and missed opportunity?

Recent changes to the GCSE format are compounding the situation for many, with less coursework and fewer low-stake touch-points along the way, culminating in a higher-stakes exam situation at the end of the two years.

One senior teacher recently explained in an interview that lower achieving students are “completely demoralised” by these changes.

The disconnect between paper-based exams and a digital workload is huge

In the world of work, the fact is that no one spends two years preparing for one exam that will determine their entire future within a company. For those aspiring to a career in IT or digital, the disconnect between paper-based exams and the digital workload they’ll one day manage is often huge.

While school is not intended to be merely a microcosm of employment (nor should it be) the assessment model simply isn’t sustainable or helpful in preparing students for many of the skills, digital or otherwise, that they will ultimately need in life.

Real life is far more like a video game, in some regards. We’re all chugging away daily, trying to win the little victories and unlock basic necessities as we slowly but surely work our way up to the next level, whatever that may be.

To that end, I’m encouraged by initiatives like Nintendo’s Digital Schoolhouse, which is reaching some 32,000 students in 55 schools through the power of games, and helping them build transferable skills like logic, perseverance and adaptability.

These are the skills that will serve students far beyond any exam. These skills are, I believe, where we should focus instead of on stress-inducing assessments that, if we’re honest, no one believes are a true measure of a young person’s intelligence or potential.

Students today are sceptical of the traditional academic route

Fewer young people today think university is a worthwhile endeavour, and it can be surmised that the rigid, exam-based path to getting there is part of the reason they’re discouraged. Just 65% of young people now think university is important, compared to 85% just six years ago.

Students today are sceptical of the traditional route, and are increasingly seeking out alternative routes like apprenticeships to get them where they’d like to be. Alternative routes often allow for real-world learning to take place right away and on the job, rather than in the vacuum of a classroom.

These routes can be of particular interest for people with a digital skillset that’s focused on “real time” and project-based work. For young people who have bills to pay and the realities of life to grapple with, delaying a career by three years or more to learn information that may be outdated by the time of graduation might simply be less attractive than it was for previous generations.

Changing our overall outlook on education to close the skills gap

Exams need to change, it’s true, but so does our overall outlook on education. The fact that exams are central to a person’s success or failure not just in school but in life speaks volumes about the need for a longer-term view of learning.

Learning is a lifelong process, and it’s preposterous to assume it ends when someone leaves school or even university.

Thinking beyond the classroom, employers want their workers to be continually up-skilling, training and staying aligned with industry trends and career-specific advancements, and that kind of ongoing learning environment benefits employees too.

For anyone who didn’t perform well in school exams, in-the-workplace education and training offer a redeeming and supportive atmosphere where real and useful learning can take place. And exams have nothing to do with it.

Are the often-archaic school assessments today really of any utility to most employers?

I think it’s time we started assessing people for the skills that matter - critical thinking, the ability to find and use effective sources of information, the ability to manage projects and more. That kind of “soft” knowledge goes a lot further in today’s employment landscape than much of what’s currently tested. Those aspiring to work in IT or digital would fare well with simulation-based exams that assess what they can do with their knowledge in a digital environment that mirrors the workplace.

Importantly, changing our focus to a new set of skills helps us cast a wider net of people who can succeed in school and higher education, and who can go on to hold meaningful roles in digital. In order to close the skills gap we need to dramatically rethink the way we assess young people and how we deem them worthy or (in too many cases, unworthy) of entering the workforce.

We’re letting too many people fall through the cracks and letting too much talent go to waste because of an outdated notion of assessment, and our digital economy is paying the price. It’s time to promote a more inclusive learning environment, and to look for new ways to engage with young people.

We need to get everyone thinking beyond the test and for the long-term. In other words, the system needs to be far less University Challenge and far more Great British Bake Off.

Young people deserve an ongoing chance to show what they can do rather than just one shot to tell what they know. Given the right learning environment and pathway, almost any student can thrive.

Graham Hunter, VP of Skills, CompTIA

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 6 hours

Recognising and supporting learners who are at risk of, or...

Overview This webinar is intended to explain the nature of harm and abuse caused to learners who may be at risk of, or have experienced sexual...

  • Wednesday, 06 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page