A report by online recruitment service Hired, timed for National Coding Week, identifies employment areas where skill are most in demand. They are data, security (now a premium area following well publicised data breaches), Python, Ruby, UI (user interface) and UX (user experience).
"Mind the Gap: A Report on the UK's Technology Skills Landscape" also warns that the situation is likely to be further exacerbated by the UK's 'Brexit' withdrawal from Europe.
The report was put together from "proprietary information" from the recruitment activities of companies and candidates using Hired's onle service over the past 18 months. It was collected and sifted by its data science team.
UK will have 750,000 new digital jobs by 2020
It set the context of the UK as Europe's leading tech hub and the largest digital economy in the G20 (calculated as a percentage of GDP). Apparently the UK has more tech "unicorns" — business valued at $1b at least — in Europe. However, it questions whether it can maintain this lead given the uncertainty following Brexit and growth in other countries. It warns that an O2 report reveals that the UK will need to fill more than 750,000 new digital jobs by 2020 and train more than 2 million people with digital skills.
That's not looking likely against the failure of UK universities to increase the intake of computer science students since 2002/3. "With this in mind, there is a risk that the UK could fall behind other global leaders, particularly when you consider that the EU has stated that France performs better than the UK in terms of producing STEM graduates," says the report. And although it identifies the adoption of computer science and coding in the curriculum for schools in England as a step forward, there are no insights into how the qualifications regime will help recruit more computer science students.
The key findings for education are:
- Developers are a highly educated group: nearly three-quarters have an undergraduate degree or higher;
- Imperial [College, London] tops the chart for developer degrees, reflecting its status as the UK’s leading science-focused institution;
- Top tech-centric universities including Manchester, Bristol and Southampton all feature heavily;
- There is a burgeoning group of “self-taught” developers; 26% list no university education.
The report adds: "These figures are deeply worrying for the UK’s digital future. The lack of progress in significantly increasing the number of students taking computer science means the UK is highly likely to feel the effects of a tech skills gap for years to come, which could in turn have a serious impact on the country’s tech sector.
'Equally concerning — computer science gender imbalance'
"Attracting international talent is one way to counter this worrying trend, but only over the long term — and particularly if Brexit makes it harder for employers to attract overseas talent, the UK needs to develop a base of digital skills within its homegrown population. Equally as concerning is the gender imbalance among computer science students. Of the 63,000 UK students taking the subject in 2014-15, 85% were male, suggesting a massive gender gap that needs to be addressed as well."
The report also looked at the universities graduates were coming from (see chart) and the pay scales scales they were likely to enjoy in the industry. The average starting salary for software engineers is £30,000 to £35,000. That figure is between 7 and 25 per cent higher than their graduate peers according to statistics from the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
In her foreword to the report, president of campaigning industry body techUK Jacqueline de Rojas commented: "The UK needs people with the skills to help them keep pace and thrive in a digital future. This starts with inclusion – we must make sure that no part of the UK is left behind in the digital revolution, and people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds are given the tools and access to education to develop their digital skills.
'We are on the cusp of a digital revolution'
"Hired’s ‘Mind the Gap’ report brings the issue of the skills gap to the fore and highlights the need for a new and innovative approach in the UK to growing our skills base. We need to look to our culture, and shift to a model of lifelong learning. We must commit to challenging our employees and peers to learn new skills, or to update their current set, to ensure we remain ahead of the curve.
"It’s time for industry leaders, government and think-tanks to work together to truly seize the moment to fulfil our potential as a digital nation of significance. By using the findings of this report, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to become engaged in the UK technology industry. We are on the cusp of a digital revolution; let’s not let it slip through our fingers.