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E-skills aims to boost IT degree numbers

An initiative called 'Revitalise IT' will aim to encourage more young people into the UK technology industry
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

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.

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