Filling the IT skills gap

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Filling the UK’s ICT skills gap is one of the hottest topics for government and employers right now.

When I was invited to a Tech Nation meeting at Downing Street in February with the UK alliance partners, the talk was all “skills-gap”. What’s good is that the UK recognises that tech will contribute billions more to the economy than it does today, so is doing something about it – today.

What is the skills gap?

Simply put, the majority of ICT graduates I’ve interviewed for jobs leave university with nothing like the skills modern tech companies, particularly SMEs (small and medium enterprises) like mine, need. Every ICT graduate I’ve employed has been a hobbyist programmer, web developer, or UI designer. They learn what employers want today because they teach themselves in their spare time. That means the curriculum is not keeping up with the industry, and how can it?

A three or four year degree cannot flex enough to accommodate advances in tech. So universities and employers need to work more closely to bridge the gap that will prepare students for work. SMEs are more agile, and can quickly adopt new technology because they’re not anchored in to legacy platforms that can take a long time to break away from or redevelop.

With e-Skills UK estimating that Europe could be facing a skills gap of 900,000 skilled ICT workers by 2019/2020, up-skilling is unquestionably essential – so where do we begin?

Tech hubs

This is where universities and government are looking UK-wide to establish successful tech hubs that bring together SMEs and innovators in a spirit of collaboration – sharing new ideas, and building strategic partnerships.

As a ‘Digital Dozen’ ambassador for UK Tech event Digital 2015, I firmly believe in the power that these events have in terms of bringing entrepreneurs and thought-leaders together to establish meaningful relationships and inspire the next generation of digital thinkers.

Giving people the opportunity to learn about digital skills in the company of prospective employers, recruiters and training companies is a step in the right direction. Raising awareness of opportunities in digital industries and talking about the potential of technology will encourage people take ownership of their futures, follow their entrepreneurial instincts, and enter the digital sphere.

Based in South Wales, which is the fastest growing tech hub in Europe, Schoop has benefited from being a part of Tech Nation Alliance Partner. I had no idea there were so many bright and blooming tech companies right on my doorstep that we can learn from, and grow together. There are similar alliance partners throughout the UK.

Bodies like the ESTNet (The Electronic and Software Technologies Network for Wales) have also launched campaigns to help upskill ‘work ready graduates’ in partnership with technology companies, local universities and the Welsh Government.

Projects like these give companies the opportunity to employ an undergraduate from the electronic engineering or computer science departments at leading universities to work on a project specific to the business. Perfect! This is exactly the kind of initiative we discussed at Number 10.

Can education and the UK government do more?

There is definitely room for improvement. Events and collaborative tech-hubs need to gather momentum, and continue to become bigger and brighter beacons that inspire future generations.

If these kinds of events and projects continue to be rolled out, and keep their funding, then those undergraduates can go back to university and drive the changes required in the curriculum. Education should be prepared to learn something back.

by Paul Smith, Founder & CTO, Schoop

Teachers overworked and undervalued but still dedicated to education, survey suggests

via The Guardian

Read more:

While 82% of teachers say their workload is unmanageable, 97% believe school should be as much about encouraging a love of learning as exam results…

When used properly by schools and other organisations, Schoop can significantly reduce the debilitating administrative workload that teachers and other educators face, which the above article discusses.

To arrange demo of Schoop, please click here. 

Alternatively, download the Schoop app for free and enter 123 when prompted for an ID – this is our demo account, which will show you exactly how Schoop can work for your organisation.

Testimonials from teachers, parents, MPs, and other officials who use Schoop can be read here

Our day at 10 Downing Street



Set off in the car to London with entrepreneur and mentor Neil Cocker of Cardiff Start / Dizzy Jam

This was a great chance to get to know each other better, and be reassured of the day ahead.

10:30 AM

Miss the turning to the car parking space I’d booked, and spend the next 20 minutes regretting it. Great parking spot just a few minutes from Number 10, but our first meetings are both separately and coincidently in Farringdon.

10:50 AM

Make the decision to walk 30 minutes to White Bear Yard offices of Passion Capital on Clerkenwell Road in new shoes. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

11:20 AM


Passion Capital HQ for my pitch rehearsal with Eileen Burbidge and others. This went really well, although I was inwardly nervous. Gladly nerves didn’t show and my pitch was bang on three minutes. They liked it, offered great feedback and lots of support.

Spent an hour getting to know some of the others pitching at the event, including Matt from Veeqo, Adam from Send My Bag, and Naimish from Show My Homework (I sense a partnership with him). Nice guys all round.

Then a short taxi ride to Number 10 …

2pm Number 10 Downing Street

There was a huddle of tourists trying to get a glimpse of the seat of power from outside the security gates to Downing Street, as you can imagine.

It was a special moment to present myself at the gate, and be allowed in. Something I’ll remember for many years.

Number 10 is essentially a well kept home. Prime Ministers’ residence since 1735, and not a lot is known about the decisions made inside. To be allowed in is an honour. To get the opportunity to pitch Schoop with government approval is pretty special.

2.15pm  Tech City Huddle

Met with the movers and shakers in government backed UK tech industry policy. Also met Daniel Korski – personal adviser to David Cameron. Honestly, I thought it WAS David Cameron at first. He is the spitting image of the current PM. Then I made a bit of an ass of myself assuming he must be Guy Johnson (Anchor on Bloomberg TV, although this was a bit of cop-out excuse to marginalise the previous David Cameron identity mix up).

Daniel is one of the good guys. He’s attentive, astute, charismatic, witty, and a very clever bloke. Every time someone spoke, his attention was 100%, and he took notes. He noticed everything around him, and made note of who wanted to speak. He also held the room in conversation that could have gotten heated, but didn’t. I like him, and this was unexpected.

After a short coffee interlude with meet and greet for all the Tech City representatives, including the Pitch 10 finalists, we sat down to talk about the pressing issues affecting UK tech companies.

The room was introduced by Gerard Grech who highlighted the main issues facing UK tech, such as the skills gap in graduates expecting to walk in to tech jobs. Daniel then asked for an opener to begin the chat, so I chimed in first.

“Graduates leave uni with little preparation for our industry as the curriculum is outdated or limited. Only hobbyist programmers etc get the chance to work with us – they need to demonstrate that passion for the industry that makes them stand out. Even then, programs such as the axed Go Wales program gave them the opportunity to demonstrate ability in a short placement, so why have these programs lost their funding?”

It sparked varied debate which lasted the entire hour.


Pitch 10


We moved to the main event. I was strangely calm, but exhilarated. I was number 8 on the alphabetical list of companies that would pitch. I did ask if I could change the name of the company to AAAAAAA-Schoop? Sadly not.

Lord Young opened proceedings with Guy Johnson (Bloomberg TV) as MC.

The first seven pitches were a bit of a blur as I tried to remain clam and wait my turn.

Schoop pitch


Guy stood up and calmly introduced me as Paul Smith from … Wales. Not Schoop, but Wales. As if Wales was an undiscovered country. A short confab with Guy ensued and I moved swiftly on to the pitch. It went really well … I think. I had good feedback in any case.

I just got the opportunity to speak to 40+ VCs and government advisers. And I did it in Number 10 Downing Street.


I fielded a couple of questions from Guy after the pitch including, “is Welsh one of the languages supported by Schoop?”

“Yes it is”, I replied. I think he was expecting me to say “no”.

The second question was “Where do your customers come from?”

I wanted to answer “planet Earth … for now”. I wish I had.

I had a good chat with Guy after the event, and he’s a nice chap.

Adrenaline comedown and post pitch chats

I had several chats with VCs, legal reps and others after the event, but I really need to say thanks to the people from Tech City, Passion Capital and particularly Neil from Cardiff Start. They made the day.

When I left number 10, I got this really awful selfie:


At this point, the “new shoe” blisters were excruciating, as was the sciatic leg pain, which was about to cripple me.

I had an additional walk back to the car, which I was tempted to take my shoes off and walk barefoot.

The voyage home

Other than pranging my car at a service station, the home run was a good catch up with Neil. I got so much from this day, and I have a lot of people to thank. I represented everyone who works for Schoop, and all the people at home that have faith in what we’re doing.

Watch this space

Twittter @SchoopSocial has gone mental. as have all the Facebook and Schoop Demo (123) followers in the last 24 hours.

Cheers all



Schoop is going to No 10 Downing St!






As part of TechCity UK‘s Pitch10 event, Schoop has been selected to make a 3 minute pitch to VCs and other corporate representatives at No 10 Downing St this Friday, 20th Feb.

Along with 11 other companies from across the UK, Schoop was chosen by an impressive advisory panel that includes entrepreneurs, digital champions, and investors.

From the Pitch10 website:

A showcase of 10 – make that 12! – of the most promising digital companies in TechNation (across the UK) and representing Scotland, N Ireland, Wales, N England, S England and London. The UK is establishing itself as the world’s leading TechNation. Given talent in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and across all of England, No 10 Downing Street is pleased to host an event to showcase some of the most promising.

We’re very excited to be part of this event, and honoured to be presenting with other innovative British tech companies.


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