E-skills aims to boost IT degree numbers

E-skills aims to boost IT degree numbers

Summary: An initiative called 'Revitalise IT' will aim to encourage more young people into the UK technology industry

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TOPICS: Networking
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E-skills UK has launched an initiative designed to address the falling numbers of students taking IT-related degrees.

The "Revitalise IT" scheme will aim "to transform the attitudes of young people to IT-related education and careers, and support universities in developing and promoting courses that reflect the needs of IT professional careers," according to an e-skills statement.

Launched on Tuesday, will have two parts. The first of these, "Ambition", will aim to change attitudes towards technology-related degrees and careers. E-skills UK, employers, universities and schools will promote the industry "by raising an awareness and understanding of a future in IT" among young people, according to e-skills UK.

The first stage of Ambition will include detailed research among young people to explore perceptions and attitudes and the barriers to engagement. The programme will also use interactive digital content such as podcasts, mobile technology and user-generated content, to "put the students at the heart of the project," said an e-skills statement.

Employer-hosted events, an online virtual careers fair and an interactive online product design competition are also planned.

The second part of the initiative is called "Catalyst". The Catalyst programme will promote the skills graduates develop from different types of IT-related degree courses, and will guide curriculum development in areas of industry growth.

The first stage of the Catalyst programme will focus on mapping a series of degree courses against a framework of IT professional skills and qualifications, to identify best practice, and provide a basis for curriculum development to address any unmet needs.

Karen Price, chief executive officer for e-skills UK, said: "The IT and telecoms sector makes a vital contribution to the UK's long-term prosperity in an increasingly competitive global economy. The IT professional workforce in the UK has almost doubled in the last 12 years: from 550,000 to around one million today, and will continue to grow strongly over the coming decade. At the same time, every year fewer young people choose to undertake an IT-related degree, with a drop of around half (46 percent) since 2001. There is a mismatch here that urgently needs to be addressed."

Price added: "Strengthening relationships between employers, universities and schools is at the heart of e-skills UK's campaign to make the UK world class in technology skills. Through this initiative, we will work with universities to help them build on their success and identify with growth markets, such as the increasing need for business-oriented, customer-focused IT professionals. We will also work with schools and young people to raise awareness and understanding of a future in IT."

Enterprises and academic institutions currently participating in the Revitalise IT initiative include Vodafone, Microsoft, LogicaCMG, the BBC, Cisco, Apple, Accenture and John Lewis, and the University of Kent, University of Greenwich, University of Reading, Oxford Brookes University, University College London and City University London.

E-skills UK is part of the government-endorsed, employer-led Sector Skills Council for IT and Telecoms.

Topic: Networking

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • Fine words are not going to change perceptions

    The reason why so few people are taking up IT as a career is mainly due to the attitudes of business towards IT resources. Most companies, including some of the ones mentioned in the article, have treated IT employees appallingly hiring and firing on a whim. After the dot com bubble burst many organisations moved much of their IT work off shore, in short sighted cost cutting drives. This lead to mass unemployment within the sector for several years meaning that anyone thinking of entering the industry being dissuaded from doing so. There is, within many organisations, still a culture of IT hire and fire, causing their employees to be constantly ill at ease and dissatisfied. This ill feeling still percolates down to school leavers dissuading them from taking up IT degrees. People look for stability and prospects when choosing a career and at the moment IT has a very bad record in these respects. I can't see this latest initiative making much difference as school leavers are far too wary of industry 'spin' to be taken in by such an initiative. It takes years to create a graduate and years to turn that graduate into a skilled IT practitioner so even if this years school leavers are persuaded to go into IT it's going to be an awfully long time before it makes a difference. In the mean time more and more IT will be off shored and the UK IT industry will continue in it's decline.
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