10% of IT graduates unemployed

Ten per cent of computer science graduates are unemployed several months after graduating, figures released yesterday reveal.

Ten per cent of computer science graduates are unemployed several months after graduating, figures released yesterday reveal.

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency appear to support employers' complaints that computer science graduates lack business skills.

The unemployment rate for computer science graduates is 10%. This is higher than the 8% unemployment for graduates of creative arts and communications, traditionally seen as less employable than science graduates. The average level of unemployment amoung graduates of the academic year 2006-07 was 6%.

Richard Brown, chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, said: "Business demand remains strong for IT and computing. Some companies complain of a shortage of the right people with the right skills, which may suggest there's a mismatch.

"Businesses have off-shored a lot of technical work, so are looking now for higher level skills like project management and customer interfacing skills."

Universities are working hard to change degrees to suit business, Richard Brown said. "But we suspect there's still quite a bit of a lag between the demands of the industry and what higher education provides."

Denise Plumpton, director of information at the Highways Agency, said sandwich courses, where students spend a year of their degree working in the industry, could help improve business skills.

"Being a great web developer in a university learning situation is very different from sitting in the business world, where there are timescales to meet, budgets to work within and customers and colleagues with every evolving needs to be catered for," said Denise Plumpton.

Ollie Ross, head of research at the Corporate IT Forum, said: "We live in a market-based economy and people compete in a global pool of IT skills. For this country, it is challenging for us to compete on cost.

"The differentiator for the UK will be on the development of combined business/IT skill sets.

"What matters to our blue-chip subscribers is the innovative application of technical skill and that expert talent is deployed successfully for the benefit of the business.

"UK educators must focus on providing businesses with high-calibre graduates who understand the commercial application of IT."

But Anne De Roeck, chair of the Council for Professors and Heads of Computing, said computer science graduates do have relevant skills. The challenge, she said, is to match the right graduates with the right employer.

“All our evidence shows that our computing graduates, who are highly technically skilled, have highly relevant skills, and are in fierce demand. However, the IT sector is very large and very diverse, and needs large numbers of new entrants each year.

“The challenge is to keep getting the right skills mix into appropriate parts of the sector, and to find ways of up-skilling people who are already in work.”

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