Education system is ‘100 years behind’, says CEO

David Richards, CEO of WANdisco
David Richards, CEO of WANdisco
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ONE of the UK’s leading technology entrepreneurs is calling on the Government to overhaul the British education system, accusing it of being 100 years out of date.

David Richards, CEO of Sheffield-based software firm WANdisco, said that British schools are failing to get enough pupils interested in technology, which will lead to a massive shortage of home-grown talent in the future.

“We’re not creating graduates with the right skills,” he said.

“Our education system is 100 years out of date. We do woodwork and metalwork, but where is the programming?

“Where are our computer scientists? Our education system is designed to service an empire, not for today.”

Mr Richards called on the Government to radically change education and make it more similar to the US.

“Our education system asks boys and girls to decide what they want to do when they’re 16. It should be like the US system where you do all subjects until you’re 18. What you say ‘no’ to at 16 you may well say ‘yes’ to at 20,” he said.

Mr Richards is to meet the Department for Education later today in order to get his message across.

“The top job in the US is a software engineer. That’s the number one job,” he said. “Graduates in the US are getting paid $150,000 (£89,000) a year. British graduates could earn that.”

At a packed conference in London’s Canary Wharf, Mr Richards spoke about the importance of Big Data, the rapidly-growing volume of complex, diverse and high-speed data.

“Unfortunately, I’m not seeing enough signs of participation in the UK in Big Data,” he told the audience. “I really hope the private sector will step up and announce some apprenticeships.”

WANdisco recently took the decision to retrain all of its 70 staff in Sheffield. It also announced its own Big Data Apprenticeship Scheme yesterday. Mr Richards said the scheme will ensure participants receive the right training to develop and build Big Data products.

WANdisco is to hire four local school leavers or graduates and train them to work as a data analyst at a big data company.

“Our Big Data Apprenticeship Scheme is a symbol of the sort of hands-on skills we should be teaching young graduates,” said Mr Richards.

“It is a crying shame that unemployment figures amongst computer science graduates remain so high during a national resurgence of our technology sector. We’re trying to lead by example and start the process of change.”

The announcement coincides with the inaugural London Technology Week, which saw the capital’s tech community commit to taking on 2,000 new apprentices. WANdisco said its pledge will see this campaign extended beyond London.

Also speaking at the conference was Clive Humby, the inventor of the Tesco Clubcard, who said Big Data is a revolution reminiscent of the discovery of crude oil.

“As oil became more plentiful, we developed technology to turn it into plastics, food and other powerful applications and as data is today becoming more plentiful, we’re getting much better at using it in new and innovative ways.”

Jamie Murray Wells, head of retail, Google UK, said: “In today’s world, Big Data has to be at the heart of retailer’s thinking. It’s helping develop the products consumers want at a much quicker rate and providing innovative ways to manage budgets more efficiently.”