The future Graduate and the IT and Computing skills shortage

I have wanted to write this article for a while now.  When I was in university, the IT skills shortage stood at 3 million and the popular IT/Computing magazines were half full of employment adverts. That era has long gone but we, in the UK are still suffering as IT skills shortages reach the highest level in 10 years,  we continue not to learnt from the past and it seems that while we continue to churn out graduates, they seem to lack skills that employers want/need. In addition, the coming generation shun the industry because of a perceived lack of glamour and a reputation for hard work. It doesn’t all end there as recent reports suggest that The UK’s software development industry will suffer the same decline as the country’s manufacturing sector unless action is taken to tackle the skills shortage.

Have we become a nation that is forced to import talent from asia? Do we import talent because its, well, cheaper? I will let you decide.

This topic  is close to my heart as I strongly feel that the UK can become a leader in the IT/Computing arena. Well, if that is the case, how do we go about doing it?

I have realised now the secret of success for new graduates is to locate a degree course that equips them with the theoratical and practical knowledge of performing well in their area of study. Students would do well by using ‘pre-job board’ sites like Careerplayer. This site holds hundreds of videos with real people/graduates in real jobs, talking about their job and what it really entails, good and bad – sharing their honest view of their role. Using a site like Careerplayer will help them to de-select the IT/Computing career paths, if its not for them.

While researching this topic, I found an interesting article by Felix Redmill of Redmill Consultancy . I totally agree with all that has been said by Felix but would want to add by saying that both the government and industry have a role to play to ensure that the UK has a future equipped with suitable graduates, in essence creating a pseudo standard for such degrees with a vision for wider adoption.

I have split IT and Computing into three areas as I feel that these three areas need a slightly different kind of graduate and at least two of these areas have a pseudo standard that should be adopted/followed UK wide. In actual fact, to raise the bar of these degree courses, I would go as far as to say that all IT/Computing/gaming degrees should be validated by the government, with a minimum agreed of modules that are standard within all  three areas identfied below:

1. Information Technology Management

This is an area where government and industry have been brought together by eskills UK to validate IT management courses.  Read the following for more information:

News in Brief for new Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) Degree course

HP teams with Thames Valley University to address UK Skills Shortage

eskills and IMTB

Universities offering the IMTB degree course (14)

Sample IMTB degree content from University of Manchester

 2. Software Engineering (Programming)

I couldn’t find any resources to indicate even any pseudo standards. This area would be covered well by a region by region basis and associated demand for programmers according to industries served within that region. For example, the universities near the UK’s silicon valley (Reading area) could offer courses on .net, Oracle etc due to local presence of these industry behomeths.

3. Computer Games Progamming

Again for games programming, 81 universities offer courses but only 4 are accredited by Skillset. Again, this suggests a lack of any standard degree for gaming.

It is no wonder, then that when graduates graduate, employers seem bewildered as to the calibre of graduate that they are taking onboard. I have even known of students that have completed their degree courses, employed by employers as programmers only to find that they do not know how to program in the language being used by that employer!

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About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

2 Responses to The future Graduate and the IT and Computing skills shortage

  1. Suzanne Gilly says:

    When you use the phrase “labor shortage” or “skills shortage” you’re speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: “There is a labor shortage at the salary level I’m willing to pay.” That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence and the intellectually honest statement.

    If you start raising your wages and improving working conditions, and continue to do so, you’ll solve your “shortage” and will shortly have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

    Re: Shortage due to retirees: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, people entering retirement age are being forced to work well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

    Okay, fine. Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, the solution is to raise your wages and improve benefits. People will self-fund their re-education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to self-fund their own career re-education.

  2. Godfrey Room says:

    Suzanne – it is a very well made point. It seems to me that the crisis that was created by a failure of Trust continues to be reflected in the commercial world at large. Businesses have become very risk-averse. Who is making any new TV these days? You have to have guaranteed audience-pulling names in your line-up or be re-making a classic hit from the past. In IT the buzz word is “experience”; we won’t risk training bright new talent if we can get over-qualified, hugely-experienced talent at well below market rates from the pool of redundant city IT experts. It’s a bit like what would happen if your local, non-league soccer team could “buy” Beckham to play for them; would they take the 17 yr.-old hopeful instead? The opportunities for new graduates just aren’t there and the fall-out will come in 5 or 10 years time!Who will trust these younfg entrants to do well? Those who are getting a little experience are being paid nothing and so only those that have wealthy parents can afford to live and work in London to pick up those valuable chances to get a toe-hold in the business. Sorry it sounds gloomy Mubbisher! Is the scene better in the Provinces?

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