Prince Andrew has challenged hundreds of young people to develop their digital technology skills, on his visit to a West Midlands school on Thursday.
The Duke was at the Shireland Collegiate Academy in Smethwick to officially open an £8 million theatre and new performance block. Touring the facilities, he took a keen interest in the work of the students and observed 11 and 12 year olds contributing to discussion and classwork on laptop computers.
Along with the professional theatre, the performance block houses specialist facilities for dance, drama and music, along with film and recording studios. Pupils are able to take advantage of a new ‘immersive space’ which projects onto three of the four walls and can combine these with sounds and smells.
During Andrew’s visit, pupils were learning about the Second World War and the cities affected. Using Google Earth, they were able to see the distance between the school and the major battle grounds of the conflict.
After the tour, the Duke went on to speak to both staff and students in the 400-seat theatre. He praised the school as ‘exceptional’ and explained the new digital skills initiative, the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA); of which he is a championing co-founder.
“Members of my family are very good at presenting prizes, unveiling plaques and giving out awards. We are not so good when it comes to digital, not so good when it comes to enterprise,” he said, before talking about how his own experience at school, in the Royal Navy and as the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, made him aware of the need to “engage more and invest more in young people’s skills.”
“In the 21st century, the revolution is going to on around us with the number of new devices we can now use that we can put in our pockets. There used to be a simple thing called a telephone. Now it can run your life. Young people are going to have to take up the challenge. You have to maximise your potential.
“IDEA is about inspiring young people to make more of their lives than sitting in the classroom. Employers are looking for all sorts of skills, not just GCSE or A-Level results. Take this opportunity because it may benefit not only your life but the lives of people around you and the rest of the world.
“Doing it conventionally is not the answer.”
The iDEA initiative is an joint collaboration between the Duke of York and the Nominet Trust, of which he is Patron. The award scheme, for 14 to 25 year olds, aims to support more than one million young people to pursue their own ideas, develop their digital skills and realise the practicalities of business and the business world.
Along with high-profile celebrities, like will.i.am, the scheme has also attracted the backing of eight major organisations; Barclays, Microsoft, Telefonica (O2), Mozilla, KPMG, Salesforce.com, Silicon Valley Bank and the University of Huddersfield.
Speaking of the initiative and how it affects students at Shireland, Assistant Principal Kirsty Tonks told the Express and Star:
“It is the perfect time for us to take our students to the next level of supporting them in accessing careers in the world of digital business. There are so many opportunities for our students to carve out successful careers that something such as Idea is the perfect vehicle with which to do this.”