Microsoft: IT Graduate Decline Could Jeopardise UK Jobs

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Microsoft’s education director warns the UK of the consequences of a drop in IT A-level students

Just as many students are finding out their exam results, a worrying trend is developing that could impact British jobs in the future.

The warning came from Steve Beswick, UK director of education for Microsoft, speaking to Computer Weekly.

It seems that what is causing him concern is the decline in numbers of A-level students opting to take IT-related subject.

Graduate decline

Microsoft’s Beswick was responding to the 2011 result figures that showed a 1.8 percent decline in the number of students taking IT-related A-levels.

The 1.8 percent decline on the surface seems modest, but dig a little deeper and it seems that five years ago the figures showed that 20,441 A-level students were taking IT courses. This had dropped to just 16,251 in 2010, and in 2011 this fell even further to just 15,962.

This ohas serious implications for the UK’s IT skill levels going forward.

“The downward trend around computer science numbers is a worrying trend from an IT perspective and a business point of view,” Beswick was quoted as saying by Computer Weekly. He also warned the decline in IT A-levels could lead to increased offshoring of IT jobs.

“IT jobs are growing at four times the rate of the standard jobs market. With fewer people with appropriate IT skills coming out of education, there’ll be no-one to fill the jobs available in the marketplace. We could see more off-shoring to India and China as a result,” Beswick reportedly said.

Beswick apparently believes the IT sector needs to do more work to inspire young people from ages as young as eight years old. But in the meantime businesses could fill IT job vacancies by looking to maths and engineering graduates.

Skills shortage

There are well known skills shortages in the IT sector at the moment, especially in the security and mainframe environments.

In July the boss of the UK’s GCHQ complained that his department was losing valuable cyber security experts to the likes of Google, Microsoft and Amazon. And in February e-skills UK revealed that the UK is suffering something of a recruitment crisis, which sees companies struggling to fill an estimated 110,000 new IT jobs created this year.

Meanwhile the Open University recently launched new undergraduate degrees in IT and Computing to help close the UK skills gap. It has also licensed the International Data Group (IDG) CIO Executive Council’s Pathways competency framework earlier this year in order to give potential IT managers a route from IT staff to board level.

Other initiatives are also trying to fill the IT skills gap in the UK.

These include the Cyber Security Challenge, which is now in its second year of operation, and in March CA Technologies announced the creation of its Mainframe Academy to combat the mainframe skills shortage.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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