Levels of students applying to study computer science have halved in five years, according to the “Developing the Future” report, which examines the state of the UK software development industry.
Even without this dramatic tumble in graduate numbers, there still wouldn’t be enough software developer talent to go round.
The study, conducted by Lancaster University Management School, Microsoft and the British Computer Society, estimates that the UK needs to produce about 150,000 new IT graduates each year: instead it is producing fewer than 20,000. This shortfall will widen as the first generation of software developers reaches retirement.
Asia and Eastern Europe, which are churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates with relevant skills every year, will benefit from this deficit as 40,000 software jobs are moving offshore every year.
The report warns that the software industry risks following the downward path of the UK manufacturing industry.
“Manufacturing disappeared offshore and it took us five years to realise it. With software it is the reverse. There is a lot of work around but we are already talking as if it is gone. It hasn’t! We really are risking talking young people out of moving into the IT profession,” warns Karen Price, chief executive of e-skills UK in the report.
Industry, academia and government must pool resources and encourage more people to study computer science, warns the report, if the UK is to compete globally.