IT diploma offers hope to bridge skills gap

While the GCSE ICT results showed a decline, the number of students gaining IT diplomas at foundation and higher levels showed more promise.

While the GCSE ICT results showed a decline, the number of students gaining IT diplomas at foundation and higher levels showed more promise.

The two-year diploma qualification was introduced in 2008, offering practical IT skills. Last year's low figures showed those who managed to complete the qualification in a year. This year 541 students gained a higher diploma in IT compared with 36 last year, while the foundation diploma in IT was awarded to 105 students.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, said, "We are pleased to see the continuing growth in students studying the IT diploma. The qualification was created by employers and covers the knowledge and skills they see most appropriate for careers in the IT sector.

"Because of the employer involvement, students are also really enjoying studying the diploma, as they can see how the knowledge and skills they acquire are directly relevant to the exciting reality of a career in technology," she added.

Dave Pye, executive member of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation technology sector group and CEO of IT recruitment firm, JM group, said the diploma's practical skills could be more attractive to potential employers. "There is evidence that employers want [students to have] as much work experience as possible. With a shortage of IT skills, having much more hands-on experience will be more attractive for the employment taskforce," said Pye.

"Maybe that's where the diploma scores over the GCSE [ICT] qualification. Anything more practical is going to be a winner," he said.

This year 61,022 students took GCSE ICT compared with 73,519 last year - a drop of 17%.

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