The Fourth Industrial Revolution and your children's future

  • Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP launches inquiry into the backward UK mainstream education system 
  • Almost a third (32%) of 11 to 17 year olds say they know more about technology than their teacher
  • Over two thirds (67%) have not had the opportunity to discuss a new technology or app idea with a teacher
  • Almost a quarter (24%) surveyed said they feel uninspired to learn at school

New research released today by UTCs (University Technical Colleges) highlights how schools across the country are ignoring the Artificial Intelligence revolution and should be doing more to equip pupils for future employment. This coincides with MPs launching an inquiry into the role of education in the fourth industrial revolution – fearing that without a dramatic shakeup of the mainstream, knowledge based curriculum, outdated teaching practices could put Britain at a severe economic disadvantage.

When asked what they would most like to learn at school, the data revealed making apps (45%), virtual reality (38%), Artificial Intelligence (28%) and robotics (27%) to be the most popular choices for 11 to 17 year-olds.  Despite their high-tech aspirations, a quarter (24%) of those polled say they are ‘uninspired’ by their traditional lessons, with more than a third (36%) reporting to have never had an opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom. One third (32%) believe they know more than their teacher about tech and two thirds (67%) haven’t had the chance to discuss a new tech or app idea (the most desired skill as mentioned above) with their tutors.

It is predicted that over a quarter of jobs taken by 16-to-24-year-olds are likely to be at risk of automation by the 2030s – with people from disadvantaged backgrounds most vulnerable. MPs also fear Britain is currently behind other countries when it comes to possessing relevant skills, and if the nation doesn’t future proof and prepare for the changes brought by the fourth industrial revolution, the workforce risks falling even further behind.

UTC parent research shows nearly 7 in 10 (69%) mums and dads would select a technical education if this could tap into their child’s talents. This is a challenge for most mainstream schools, for example with hundreds axing design and technology GCSE from the curriculum in the past year.  

UTC research also reveals that 8 in 10 parents (80%) believe the education system has to do more to reflect future jobs with a further two thirds (66%) fearing their child will not find a job when they finish education. These fears are reflected in a recent report by Oxford and Yale University which highlighted how AI will outperform humans in retail (by 2031), writing a best-selling book (by 2049) and performing surgery (by 2053).

Michelle Dewberry, businesswoman and UTC ambassador says: “School should be a time for youngsters to build the necessary skills that employers need. We must prepare them for the future, not the past. Education should be adaptable and malleable to the demands of the fourth industrial revolution and seeing as technology is exactly what kids want to immerse themselves in, it seems a shame that so many institutions are holding them back.

“I believe the mainstream education system is incompatible with encouraging the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of today's digitally-minded students. UTCs are working hard to make the curriculum highly relevant and practical, with the support of hundreds of employer partners who are looking out for fresh talent and can reward potential with apprenticeships and even full-time job offers upon graduation.”

Notes to Editors

University Technical Colleges are Britain’s first employer- backed schools offering 14-19 year olds opportunities to study far-reaching technical subjects from Artificial Intelligence to Aviation Design to robotics.

All students are given work placements working over 80 hours a year at their local employers.  Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, Cisco, JLR, and Fujitsu are amongst the 500 UK employers backing UTCs to offer core subjects (Maths, English and Science) alongside specialist technical qualifications to give students a competitive edge.

Children’s figures taken from research carried out by One Poll on behalf of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust/ UTC. This was an online poll of 1,000 UK children aged between 11-17 who attend a state-funded school in England (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 12th June 2017 and 14th June 2017.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity that promotes University Technical Colleges (UTCs), surveyed over 1000 parents with teenagers at mainstream schools in 2015.

Baker Dearing Educational Trust was founded by Lord Baker and Lord Dearing to develop and promote the concept of university technical colleges. Today they are a small, flexible organisation that sits at the centre of the UTC network. Their focus is on promoting and supporting new and existing UTCs.