IMPACT20: The National Conversation Report: An interview with Mark Martin MBE

Mark Martin

Unless we instil students with confidence, connect them to industry and normalise the world of work, we’ll lose Britain’s brightest young minds, warns the Urban Teacher and educational technology evangelist.

On confidence

One of the biggest challenges for young people, particularly in state schools, is a lack of confidence. They don’t believe in themselves; they don’t recognise their own potential. At the moment, business leaders come into schools once or twice a year to give flash-in-the pan assembly talks to Year 11s but that isn’t enough, and that’s often too late. I’d like to see local companies getting involved with kids from Year 7 and participating in sustainable activities – from mock interviews to presentation workshops – for the full five-year cycle of secondary school education. That would bake in confidence from an early age and normalise the world of business.

On digital inclusion

As technology advances, it’s hugely important that we take society with us. We need to make sure that the language is accessible and help people understand that technology isn’t just for techies. A lot of companies have set up digital literacy toolkits for educators and communities – but who actually gets to access them? How can we promote them better and make sure they get into schools? I also believe that all teachers – not just IT teachers – should be trained in digital literacy way beyond the curriculum. After all, this affects all of us

On diversity

The UK wants to become the economic superpower of the world. To get there, we need to increase productivity, we need to boost innovation, and we need to truly represent the global markets that we’re trying to serve. The only way to do that is to have diversity at every single level and to make sure that everyone feels included – not just during Black History Month or Pride.

On the future of work

COVID-19 has forced us to confront the future of work and rethink working from home. How do you create spaces where people can be creative and innovative? How do you empower young people to work independently while still offering them support? How do you give people structure and training, and keep them motivated for longer periods of time? How do you make sure people can ask for help and have a voice? All of this demands urgent action: we need industry to share good practice and set standards. A lot of people are really struggling in this new normal.

On partnerships

London First is a brilliant example of a successful partnership. It’s made up of more than 200 of London’s leading employers across a wide range of sectors, all with a common commitment to the capital. Together, they created Skills London, the UK’s largest annual jobs and careers fair for school leavers. I’m also pleased to see Amazon and Nesta partnering up to run the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, which challenges teams of young people aged 11-16 to design, test and develop technology enterprises for social good. It’s really important that we foster an entrepreneurial spirit in students from all backgrounds.

On exams

While it’s great that the government has introduced a new vocational qualification, the T-level (equivalent to three A levels), in England, focusing on practical rather than academic subjects, we still need to put an end to the exams culture in this country. They aren’t the best way to test a young person’s knowledge and they don’t reflect the outside world. We should be encouraging students to create portfolios and judging them on their project work instead.

On dangers

Unless we offer young people opportunities, help them transition into jobs and set up better working-from- home practices, there will be a huge exodus of talent. If we don’t listen to Britain’s brightest young minds, they’ll leave.

To create a more inclusive society, I would...

... ask all organisations to pledge to support homegrown talent and actively engage with the kids on their doorstep.