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Tech Skills for the Energy Transition

In this month’s blog, we hear from our IT Director, Gayle Veitch, on how we are preparing our young people for rapidly evolving workplaces and the importance of using the right skills and tools to achieve a sustainable, low-carbon future for generations to come.

Artificial Intelligence has hit the headlines in recent weeks and this rapidly developing technology is something we must carefully weave into how we as educators prepare the workforce of the future.

Whilst some sections of the media have chosen to focus on potential pitfalls and sensationalise some scenarios, the use of AI also has the potential to positively transform many tasks, and I believe that almost all employees of the future will be using AI tools in various forms.

Our young people are already growing up in a world where their home heating systems can learn the family's daily routine and adjust accordingly, using mobile phone GPS data to ensure that energy is not wasted if nobody is home. These principles are being scaled up in the energy industry to, for example, detect and prevent equipment failures, reduce downtime, and improve safety.

We teach programming under the headline ‘coding is a superpower’ because employees with this superpower create AI algorithms to collect and analyse data then identify areas for improvement. Programmers will increasingly link AI with physical devices to automate repetitive or physically demanding tasks so it’s crucial that the next generation of the workforce has the awareness of what might be possible, and the ambition to dream beyond their current experience to improve their future.

In 2013, UK universities started to offer courses in data science or data analytics and it’s no surprise that this has rocketed, with UCAS reporting that almost 300 different courses were available last year - reflecting the value in graduates who have these key skills to assist in data driven decision making. Alongside the coding skills, at ISA we put a big emphasis on Computational Thinking, a fundamental IT skill that involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components that can be solved using algorithms. This skill is essential across the modern workforce because these problem-solving skills help individuals to approach complex problems in a systematic and logical way, which can help them identify the root causes of the problem, find innovative solutions, and avoid errors.

Cybersecurity is another critical area that the workforce must be prepared to tackle and, as business increasingly relies on digital systems, so the risk of cyber-attacks grows. A future workforce must be equipped with the skills to develop and implement robust cybersecurity measures that can protect critical infrastructure from attacks. This includes knowledge of threat detection and prevention, vulnerability assessments, risk management, and incident response.

With all these developments, from AI to cybersecurity there are ethical and legal considerations which educators, students, employers and employees must be aware of, so awareness and skills are paramount – and it begins in the classroom where we have the important task of helping to lay the foundations for our young people to thrive in a world where technology, and the possibilities it creates, abounds.

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