This morning, it has been reported that computing in schools is in ‘steep decline’.
It has today been reported that fewer 16-year-olds in England are getting any computing qualification. In 2018, 130,000 students got a GCSE in either computer science or ICT (information and communications technology), down from 140,000 the previous year.
According to a study by the University of Roehampton, schools have cut back on the hours spent teach computing and less students are getting the necessary qualification.
The University of Roehampton has found that the number of pupils entering computing qualifications has fallen by almost half following a league table shake-up.
This year, the ICT GCSE qualification is not even an option for students. A worrying fact considering the increasing skills gap facing businesses and industry.
Demand for workers with specialist data skills like data scientists and data engineers has more than tripled over five years (+231%), according to a labour market analysis commissioned for Dynamics of data science skills, a new Royal Society report published today (9 May). Demand for all types of workers grew by 36% over the same period.
The report, led by Professor Andrew Blake FREng FRS, shows that demand for data skills has grown across the UK. According to new statistics, the demand for workers with specialist skills such as data scientists and data engineers has tripled in the last five years, leaving the country vulnerable.
Similarly, British employers posted 27,033 job advertisements seeking professionals with data skills between July 2017 and June 2018, up from 8,157 in 2013.
Growing demand for data science leaves Britain vulnerable to skills shortages
Charles Senabulya, Vice President and Country Manager, SAS UK & Ireland, believes that it is essential for the UK to ensure Generation Z are equipped with IT skills in order to compete in the global job market and digital economy:
“The downward trend we have seen in 16 year-olds gaining computing qualifications is deeply concerning. The fact that more and more young people are leaving education without any computing qualifications will have severe repercussions for both their and the UK’s future.
“As a nation, we need to put more time and effort into fostering training programmes that allow the next generation to develop computing skills at an early age. These qualifications are essential to help them compete in today’s digital economy. Tech learning is key if we’re to safeguard the UK’s competitive edge on the global stage, and to ensure a healthy job market.
“Job roles are already experiencing plenty of change with the arrival of artificial intelligence, robotics and smart technologies, and Generation Z need to be equipped and qualified to work alongside these innovations. More businesses will be looking to digitally transform in order to keep up and stay competitive, so tech skills will be at a premium.
“The ambition to become a ‘data scientist’ or ‘data strategist’ is not yet commonplace, but these are some of the most valuable opportunities for students in a tricky job market. Our research showed that big data and the internet of things could add £322 billion to the UK economy over the period 2015-2020, and there will continue to be a strong demand for digital skills in these fields.
“There are plenty of opportunities out there – now we need to make sure our young people are equipped to seize them.”
Helen Milner OBE, Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said:
“At Good Things Foundation we know the value of digital skills, and welcome this report into the demand for data science skills. The report findings that demand for workers with specialist data skills has more than tripled over five years means that, more than ever, we need to ensure that everyone has the skills needed to participate fully in our digital economy and the new job opportunities that this creates.
“It is vital that people have the skills needed to meet this demand. We know that a lack of the necessary skills needed to participate in the digital world has real economic impacts. Through our research, we have found that digital exclusion in the UK is holding back economic growth and stalling social inclusion. Our research has found that the UK can benefit by £21.9 billion by upskilling the entire population in digital skills.
“The digitisation of our economy and our society brings huge advantages such as the new work opportunities detailed in this report, and to ensure that these advantages are shared fairly and equally across society, we must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access the skills necessary to participate.
“Our work has helped over 2.7 million people improve their digital skills since 2010. However, currently 11.3 million adults lack one or more of the basic digital skills for life and work. This is why Good Things Foundation is calling on organisations and government to commit to making the UK the first 100% digitally included nation and welcomes the report’s call for ensuring that our education system provides all young people with data science knowledge and skills.”
Sheila Flavell, COO of FDM group and chair of the advisory board at IoC, comments:
“At a time when our nation faces an ever-increasing digital skills gap, it is simply not acceptable that schools are neglecting to provide or encourage student to pursue the necessary computing and ICT related qualifications. The detrimental impact the skills gap is having on our businesses and economy is getting worse every day, and the most effective remedy to this widespread issue begins in our schooling system.
“This is not just an issue facing the future of our businesses and our economy, but also the livelihood of the future workers who are not being offered the necessary qualifications and skills required to excel in many career options in the digital age.
“Moving forward, it is vital that all education institutions recognise ICT, computing or computer science as essential subjects which must be taught with enthusiasm. The importance of the skills that these subjects provide must also be stressed on a daily basis and many subjects relating to IT should be reintroduced to the core schooling curriculum.”
David Wells, VP & Managing Director EMEA at Pegasystems has some advice for how to turn things around to benefit computing students and industries alike.
“The figures published by the university of Roehampton highlight the need to overhaul the way computing education is taught in schools. Last year, STEM UK found that the skills shortage is costing STEM sector £1.5bn every year. Clearly, it’s an urgent matter, not only for children’s futures, but also for the future of the UK economy. The question must be faced head-on: how can we improve the teaching of computing subjects and attract students?
“It is crucial that we enthuse students to choose computing as a subject. Coding is important, but it’s not central to how businesses actually use information technology. We’ll always need students to have an understanding of how to work with code and program platforms. But computing education must also focus on logic, problem solving and on understanding how business processes work – not just on learning how to write lines of code. Furthermore, with low-code/no-code development going from strength to strength, coding in particularly might become a redundant skill in the future.
“What should lie at the centre of how computing is taught is problem solving that stretches the imagination and a sense of innovation in our young people. I completely comprehend how computing education that’s over-focused could be a switch-off for a swathe of students who actually have the talent we need to grow Digital Britain.”