Over the past year, there has been increasing scrutiny on the value of different degree courses. In tough economic times, graduates are only too aware that a degree does not always guarantee a smooth route into employment. Consequently, prospective university students are looking for qualifications that will ensure they get a return on their time as well as their financial investment.
Technology presents long term growth potential as a sector in its own right and offers the opportunity to transform public sector bodies and private enterprises in the UK. The industry is reliant on the skills and talent of its people. But we are currently seeing a shortage of 'job ready' young people with industry-relevant IT skills and, worryingly, reductions in the number of students entering university to study the topic.
However, too many technology degrees are not providing the right combination of industry focused skills and academic background to be immediately compelling for employers to take on these graduates. The most recent Higher Education Statistics Agency statistics revealed that that employment rates among IT graduates are some of the poorest in the UK despite the skills shortages in these areas. This has a significant impact on the career opportunities open to these young people as well as on the UK's technology industry which is struggling to recruit the right graduates.
As students' priorities change and are more and more focused on employability, universities themselves are adapting to address this. Employers are working closely with education providers to design and develop courses equipping students with the right knowledge and skills for their future careers.
Students have been bringing many benefits into the workplace in recent years, including fresh ideas and a perspective gained from growing up with technology. We find they bring with these key skills in basic IT, a sales driven approach and an understanding of customer service.
However, as the business drills down further into the skills requirements of the roles on offer we too often find areas where there is room for improvement.
Businesses need interns and graduates with technical skills such as C, C++, and software skills as well as business skills including consulting, project, people and sales management. Ideally candidates will have technical and business skills together in one package, because business and IT no longer work in silos.
From a competency perspective we are looking for assertive self starters who can demonstrate an aptitude for tactical planning and tracking paired with basic financial acumen. Graduates should be able to demonstrate responsiveness and the ability follow through a project to its conclusion. We also value immensely their strong 'external perspective' and look for people who can focus on customers. This ability to build relationships, demonstrate good listening skills and collaborate and influence are vital as the UK moves toward a less hierarchical work environment.
This insight is being used as we partner with universities to address the challenges we face together. We are co-delivering and co-authoring computing degree courses with three Higher Education institutions Buckinghamshire New University, De Montfort and the University of the West of England that share our vision on helping ensure graduates have attractive skills. This includes vital work experience, which provides the opportunity to put what they learn into practice.
Other IT organisations offer programmes and education certifications as well. Students would be well advised to seek out these industry-led courses to ensure they are equipped with not just the IT knowledge but the hands-on workplace experience required in the jobs market.
This is a pivotal time for the UK. Economic growth and a strong technology sector demand that business and UK education work towards the same goals in order to create highly skilled young people that have the ability to strengthen UK industry. Universities need to be flexible and address the needs of students. Businesses must work with universities and across the education system to ensure they are investing and advising on what they need. Finally students are now customers, paying for an education. They have the right to have to understand how their education will help them secure employment and make their contribution to driving growth.
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