Computer science graduates struggle to find work despite IT skills shortage

Despite an IT skills gap, the UK’s recent computer science graduates are the largest group of unemployed graduates

Despite employers and politicians calling for visa restrictions to be relaxed to help close an IT skills gap, the UK’s recent computer science graduates are the largest group of unemployed graduates.

A total of 69.7% of recent computer science graduates are now in employment, although not necessarily in jobs related to their studies, and 12.9% are unemployed, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

But there is a skills mismatch in the UK, with digital skills in demand and employers claiming they are unable to find the skills in the UK.

According to City & Guilds, UK IT and digital companies are among the worst affected by the skills shortage, which is forcing employers to look abroad for talent. 

The vocational training organisation reported that 74% of employers in the digital, IT and information services industry claim to be facing a skills crisis. 

It also revealed that almost half of digital companies are considering looking abroad for potential candidates. Of these, 61% feel the need to look abroad because young people in the UK are leaving education without the right skills needed for the sector.

UK startups are calling for changes to the visa system to help them attract the staff they need to grow. Computer Weekly recently spoke to a number of startups that are struggling to find talented employees in the UK and are finding it equally difficult to jump through the hoops of hiring talent from abroad.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has submitted a plan to the Home Office proposing a “London Visa” to attract business to the capital. If successful, it would make it easier for talented technologists from around the world to get jobs in the city.

Computer science graduates lack coding skills

But according to Hesa, computer science graduates who finished their studies last year are the largest group of unemployed graduates in the UK.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 12.9% of recent computer science graduates are unemployed

Hesa figures show that 12.9% of recent computer science graduates are unemployed. This is the highest of all subjects. This compares with 1.7% unemployment among recent medicine and dentistry graduates, 7.4% for biological sciences, 8.4% in mathematical science and 7% in law (see table below)

In an attempt to close this gap, City University has started to run coding training sessions, focused on visual programming in Java, for undergraduates. 

A spokesman for the university said: “Many graduates finish their courses but do not have a good grounding in coding. Prospective computer science students do not seem to be aware that writing code is the one skill that they will rely on throughout their degree option – whether it's software engineering or business computing systems.

"This year, the idea was to put all computer science freshers through a coding bootcamp to expose them to visual programming using Java – let the kids loose on writing the code behind websites, graphics and gaming. It was a great success and it led to some fascinating projects, including one student who wrote some code to do with the BBC website."

Job prospects are also bleak for IT professionals with experience. When asked about his job hunting, one unemployed UK IT professional told Computer Weekly: “It’s extremely bad. If I get replies, they are reject letters. I have been out of work for the longest period in my life now, but I am not giving up."

Percentage of graduates employed by subject area (2011/12)
Subject area Employed Unemployed
Medicine & dentistry 89.1% 1.7%
Subjects allied to medicine 86.3% 4.1%
Biological sciences 67.8% 7.4%
Veterinary science 87.1% 6.2%
Agriculture & related subjects 67.2% 7.8%
Physical sciences 61.4% 9.1%
Mathematical sciences 63.2% 8.4%
Computer science 69.7% 12.9%
Engineering & technology 73.1% 8.6%
Architecture, building & planning 77.7% 8%
Social studies 72.9% 8%
Law 63.2% 7%
Business & administrative studies 77.2% 8.2%
Mass communications & documentation 75.2% 11.4%
Languages 64.8% 8.1%
Historical & philosophical studies 62.8% 8.1%
Creative arts & design 70.7% 10.4%
Education 88.6% 2.7%
Source: Hesa


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