More than 7,000 school children across Britain took part in a national ‘Digital Day’ this week to raise awareness of career opportunities in tech.

The annual event, British Interactive Media Association (BIMA), sees industry experts visit schools across the country to engage 13-18 year-olds in a series of digital challenges.

They share real world experiences and insights with young people, helping them work through challenges. This year’s challenges have been set by Wimbledon, global software consultancy EPAM and the World’s Largest Lesson/Microbit Educational Foundation.

Digital Day, which has been running for seven years, has also allowed BIMA to understand what motivates young people. It has found that 87% of young people who hear about careers on Digital Day want to find out more about a digital career, and the initiative has become a vital tool bridging the gap between education and industry and addressing the ongoing need for skills.

Michael Worden, Head of Computing at Westholme School in Blackburn said: “Before BIMA Digital Day, many students would not even have considered a career in that area. Having someone come in to show them the possibilities makes all the difference. Thanks to BIMA, we now have a valuable link with the digital industry and it’s led to a bigger relationship that has allowed students to be better informed about career options and more motivated to succeed in digital subjects.”

“The computing curriculum is so theoretical, BIMA Digital Day gave me a completely different perspective from what I’d learned in the classroom and it made me want to study it at college. I wish I’d had this kind of exposure at a younger age, as it took practical experience for me to understand what I could be doing,” added Hope Carr Oddie, a Goldman Sachs Digital Apprenticeship from BIMA’s Digital Day 2016.

Despite the uncertainty in the UK economy, the digital sector continues to be a major success story, yet the industry is struggling to keep up with a growing skills shortage. A recent CBI/TCS report reinforced the talent pipeline crisis, with 60% of larger firms reporting that their digital skills needs will increase dramatically over the next three to five years. Meanwhile, 69% of small businesses report they will see a significant increase in their needs over the next two years.

Natalie Gross, BIMA Co-President, said: “Today, thousands of young people will find out about career opportunities they never knew they had. Over one third of students who take part in Digital Day say they don’t get the digital learning they need, and the statistics show that businesses are crying out for talent. We say it’s time to change the statistics.”

She said: “The skills shortage message is important and we are making inroads. Government, industry and education are coming together to create solutions. But not fast enough, not positively enough, and not far reaching enough. 

“So, today on BIMA Digital Day, we are asking for Britain to stand and celebrate the role our digital and technology talent plays on an international stage. To celebrate individual stories of success and inspiration. To raise awareness of our awesome industry. Happy 7th Birthday Digital Day.”