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A-level computing slide spells trouble for business

The number of students taking A-level computing has fallen by 13.9% over the past 12 months, raising new fears that young people are being turned off IT as a career.

The number of students taking computing fell from 7,242 in 2005 to 6,233 this time around, reflecting a growing trend for students to choose arts over technology and scientific subjects.

The decline follows warnings by the CBI earlier this week that the trend for students to shun scientific subjects is liable to damage the UK’s position as a world leader in innovation.

Karen Price, chief executive of the public private training partnership, E-skills UK, warned that the decline in youngsters studying IT would create a declining recruitment pool for employers.

“We are going to be in fierce competition with the economies that are producing IT graduates. But there is still a significant year-on-year decline in young people choosing IT-related A-level, GCSEs and degrees,” she said.

The A level results, released by the Joint Council for Qualifications, show that the number of female students studying computing is also continuing to decline.

Out of this year’s intake, only 9.6% of computing students were female, a drop of 11.3% from 2005, raising new concerns about the gender balance in the profession.

Research by E-skills UK shows that women tend to lose interest in IT as career unless they can be attracted to the subject at a young age.

“There is a broader cultural issue,” said Price. “A lot of science and technology subjects are seen as hard, unattractive and uncool. It is an endemic problem.”

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