The ubiquity of technology is now such that everyone has contrasting opinions on devices and applications. People disagree on everything from which is the top mobile phone to which operating system offers the best user experience. However, the one issue that almost all experts seem to agree on is the need to get younger people involved in technology earlier.
Research from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, suggests that as many as 57 per cent of digital leaders believe there is a need for enhanced IT skills among their existing workforce. What seems to be apparent is a gap between the skills that students receive in education and the expectations of the employers who take on these individuals.
UK schools have started to address these issues via the new national curriculum requirement for computing for younger learners. Similar initiatives across the globe are being encouraged - yet codingis not the only IT skills concern.
While high-level computing skills are crucial, students must also be skilled in enterprise-grade applications and packages. Modern businesses rely on people who are comfortable with a standard series of packages. More crucially, individuals will be expected to work collaboratively and to use these packages to produce results.
Researcher IDC discovered that soft skills focusing on communication, integration, and presentation are overwhelmingly desirable in high-growth, high-wage occupations. Further, Microsoft Office was the only software package to appear among the top 20 skills required for these high-growth and high-salary positions, coming in third on the list.
The cloud-based academic version of Microsoft's enterprise suite, known as Office 365 Education for Students, is available for free to individuals who are enrolled at qualifying schools. Students can install Office on up to five PCs or Macs, and on other mobile devices, including Android, iPad, and Windows tablets.
Entire academic organisations are also using Office 365 to improve learning opportunities. Take Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for example. The district has used the approach to streamline IT, reduce travel costs, and create a customisable learning portal that helps provide instructive learning from any location.
For students, early access to Office 365 gives an opportunity to collaborate on projects and to use technology to create high-quality presentations. The chance to use enterprise-grade tools also provides schooling in the type of skills that modern organisations value so highly. The result is high-quality schoolwork and a skills base on which to build for the future.