Government Tackles Digital Skills With £40m Institute of Coding

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Theresa May unveils Coding consortium to equip the UK with needed digital skills in the years ahead

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a digital initiative aimed at solving the digital skills shortage in the United Kingdom.

The £40 million Institute of Coding is a partnership deal with leading tech firms, universities and industry bodies, in an effort to bolster future digital skills in this country.

Last year the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the government’s planning to provide itself with specialised digital skills wasn’t keeping pace with the scale of the challenges that lie ahead.

Girls in Coding

Skills Gap

The consortium is made up of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts and will be funded to the tune of £20 million from the government and the same amount from industry.

IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are involved, asare 25 universities led by the University of Bath, which also includes the likes of Lancaster University, Open University and Birkbeck, as well as University of London. Professional bodies such as the British Computer Society and CREST are also participating. 

“A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future,” explained Universities Minister Sam Gyimah. “By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design.

“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most. As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”

May also highlighted a £10 million investment in free and subsidised training courses to help adults retrain and learn new skills.

Pilot programmes for the Institute of Coding are being rolled out in Leeds, Devon and Somerset, Lincolnshire, Stoke-on-Trent and the West Midlands. These will test how to reach out and support people with the cost of retraining.

The Government meanwhile has also invested £30m to test the use of artificial intelligence (AI)and edtech in online digital skills courses.

“The strength of the Institute of Coding lies in the fact that it brings together educators, employers and outreach groups to co-develop digital skills education at undergraduate and masters level for learners in universities, at work and in previously under-supported groups across the country,” explained Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding.

“In addition, we’ll work with our partners to target underrepresented talent through outreach activities, tailored and inclusive curricula, flexible delivery and removal of barriers to working in the industry,.”

BT for example will provide staff and training for the Institute of Coding’s undergraduate and masters programmes. It should be noted that the UK government has been recognised by the United Nations as the Best Digital Government in the world.

But the NAO has previously said that government departments will need an additional 2,000 digital staff within five years, at an annual cost of between £145 and £245 million.

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Meanwhile Staffordshire University has a £17m plan to make the West Midlands a hub for digital skills.

It has teamed up with Microsoft and others to deliver more than 6,500 new apprenticeships over the next decade.

“We are thrilled about this ambitious project, and the work Staffordshire University, local businesses, councils and employers are doing to provide real opportunities for more and better higher level apprenticeships,” said Government Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton.

“The Digital Apprenticeship and Skills Hub will make sure businesses and individuals have the technical skills they need to get on – and that everyone is able to pursue the jobs or careers that are right for them.”

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