From education to employment

Flexible learning will boost digital skills for the future

Rachid Hourizi MBE

Professor Rachid Hourizi MBE of the Institute of Coding explains how career-ready digital skills programmes are helping to tackle the digital skills gap and increase diversity across the UK tech industry.

This year’s A-Level Results Day will see sizeable changes to the way grades are awarded, with a return to the pre-pandemic approach towards marking and assessments. However, what shouldn’t return to business as usual is our attitude towards developing the skills we need to future-proof our economy.

With indications of 100,000 fewer top grades for school leavers this year, thousands of students will likely be needing to reconsider their next steps on Thursday morning. While some might seek alternative university courses, others might conclude that shorter, vocational skills courses are better placed to give them the skills they need to kickstart their careers.

While the UK tech industry is ranked first in Europe, with a market value of $1 trillion USD, its position as an international digital leader is in jeopardy because of severe shortage of the right skills in the right places. With 870,000 vacancies across the UK tech sector, bold action is needed to supercharge the next generation’s digital skills and in turn boost the economy.

If the tech industry is not reaching its full potential through swathes of vacancies, you can be certain the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs aren’t reaching theirs either. To solve this, we must ensure that digital learning opportunities can reach people in all corners of the UK to help boost their skills and provide a sense of direction to their career aspirations.

Academic routes are part of the solution to plugging some of these challenges in the longer term. As a professor based at the University of Bath, as well as being the Director of the Institute of Coding, I’m convinced of the crucial need to support people from all walks of life to develop career-ready, vocational skills.

Crucially, those who take this route can realise some of the benefits straight away, with the advantage of three month programmes generating a quicker return on a young person’s time, than traditional three year university courses.

Earlier this week, we announced the incredible achievement of supporting one million learners participating in an Institute of Coding programme. Short, stackable courses give learners the flexibility they need to balance existing caring and work commitments.

One of our success stories include that of Molly Smailova – our one millionth Institute of Coding learner. Molly has been able to enrol in our programme while looking after her two children, with a third on the way.  She had been working in recruitment because – despite having an interest in digital careers – she just didn’t quite know where to start.

Our integrated digital skills and career support programme, Click Start TechUPWomen, based at Durham University and funded by the public benefit company, Nominet, is giving Molly the necessary knowledge and confidence she needs to pursue a career in data analysis.

With women making up just one-in-four of the UK tech workforce, the need to build on existing models of education delivery could not be clearer.  At the IoC, we are proud that 47 percent of our learners identify as women. 

Meanwhile our ambitions are not limited to supporting those who are getting ‘A’ Level results this week.  The Institute supports people from all stages of life into tech careers, allowing them to bring all their individual experiences and insights to the industry.  Roughly half of our learners are aged under 30 and half over 30.

Learners of all ages deserve the widest possible choice about what works best for them. Whether that’s full-time academic courses over a three year period, or part-time digital skills booster sessions over a three month period, each has a role to play tackling social mobility and in enriching society and growing the economy.

The breadth of learning opportunities available through the Institute of Coding and our partners across the country are well worth exploring for school leavers this Results Day.  We will be proud to welcome those who choose to start their careers with an alternative to traditional higher education routes.

By Professor Rachid Hourizi MBE, Director of the Institute of Coding, based at the University of Bath

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