Uni ‘does not compute’ for graduate jobs
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 12:09
Far from being whizz-kids, computer science graduates are bottom of the class when it comes to getting jobs. Six months after leaving university, almost 13 percent (12.7%) were still unemployed. That compares to just 1.4 percent of those who studied medicine or dentistry, and 10.8 percent of art and design graduates.
These figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency come as a shock. The Government estimates that an additional five thousand cyber security experts are urgently needed. UK PLC is under attack from online fraudsters, criminal gangs of hackers and internet paedophile rings, with computer breaches costing the economy £27 billion last year (source: Cabinet Office). Graduate jobs in the IT sector are well paid, with starting salaries around £20,000.
So what has gone wrong? Mark Heholt of the IT industry’s sector skills council e-Skills UK says the traditional computer science degree is too technical.
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“Employers are telling us that CS graduates might have the technical expertise but they don’t have the project-management, the business analysis
or the presentation skills” he says.
Heholt recommends instead the nineteen university courses in IT Management for Business, developed with employers through e-Skills UK, which boasted a 100 percent employment rate six months after graduation in 2011-12.
“Significantly, one-third of those successful graduates are female. Traditional courses have a geeky image which puts girls off.”
They may find a role model in Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computing at Southampton University. She is pioneering a different approach to higher education in computing. “ With Tim Berners Lee- – who invented the Internet – and colleagues here we realised that we couldn’t just study the Web from the technical viewpoint. We need a holistic approach, with people from the law, government, psychology and economics too, because the Web is built of the content we put into it.” The result: a whole new research discipline called Web Science which attracts a diverse range of students – male and female – from technical and non-technical backgrounds.
These new types of computer science may help to solve the skills crisis. Mark Heholt’s latest survey shows 85% of employers are struggling to recruit cyber security and IT staff. He is launching a new Higher Apprenticeship programme, hoping to lure school-leavers directly into the business without stopping to get a university degree that may well be out of date before the ink is dry on the certificate.