National Institute of Coding established to help plug digital skills gap

A £40M national Institute of Coding, announced this week by the Prime Minister, will help fill the UK’s digital skills shortage, as well as attracting more people from underrepresented groups into the sector.

With £20M from Government, via the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and £20M+ of matched funding, this is a unique and innovative collaboration in response to the digital skills gap in the UK.

The Institute will bring together a consortium of more than 60 universities, national and international corporations, SMEs, industry groups, experts in non-traditional learning and professional bodies to form a national initiative which will reach throughout the UK.

Led by the University of Bath, the Institute of Coding will develop and deliver innovative, industry-focused higher education across the UK.

The Institute’s vision is to enhance the education and employability of every IoC learner, and ensure that employers and individuals across the UK can access the skills they need to compete in the global digital economy.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah MP said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. 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.”

Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding, said: “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.

“Courses will be made available at undergraduate and masters levels, alongside short courses in areas of strategic importance including data science, artificial intelligence and cyber security.

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

Demand for computer science specialists is already strong and set to increase drastically; More than 500,000 people will be needed to fill roles in the three highest skilled groups in the digital arena by 2022 - three times the number of UK Computer Sciences graduates in the last 10 years.

However the UK faces a digital skills gap, described in the Shadbolt and Wakeham reviews, and acknowledged in the Government’s recently released Industrial Strategy. Within the computing sector, women, people returning to work and people from BME backgrounds are particularly underrepresented. Women currently represent just five per cent of computer scientists.

IoC member organisations have worked to address the issue individually and in smaller groups, but a wider approach involving employers, educators and technologists is required, which is where the Institute of Coding fits in.

Gavin Patterson, BT Group Chief Executive, said: “Digital skills are crucial to BT’s current and future success, but no company can fix the UK’s digital skills shortage on its own. By working together across industry and academia, the Institute of Coding will unlock access to a bigger and more diverse workforce, and support skills development for people at different stages of their careers.

“We are particularly pleased that industry will have the opportunity to build on its work within the Tech Partnership in setting standards and promoting degrees that are aligned to employer needs.”

For university students, the Institute will deliver a range of industry-accredited courses that include top quality computer science teaching alongside the business skills, interpersonal skills and real-world experience required for success in the digital economy.

Learners in industry will benefit from courses designed to ensure that their skills are up-to-date. They will receive world-class education from both traditional universities and education providers such as the Open University, Birkbeck, University of London and FutureLearn.

The Institute will also work with outreach and community groups, schools and FE colleges to encourage a larger number of currently under-represented groups into digital education. One early focus will be on increasing the number of women choosing to work in the digital sector and on support for those returning to work.

Find out more about the Institute of Coding by visiting https://instituteofcoding.org/

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