“It’s time to take action” was the opinion of several IT employers, after seeing a further decline in the number of students taking ICT and computing qualifications during the recent A-Level results.
Employers involved in the Tech Partnership expressed their disappointment after learning that only 13,650 students took A-Levels in ICT and computing, a decline of 3.7% since 2013. The two subjects represented only 1.6% of all A-Levels taken.
Ten years ago, 24,594 students took ICT and computing A-Levels, which amounted to 3% of all subjects.
The Tech Partnership is a network of employers formed to create skills for the digital economy and close the IT skills gap. Working with government, schools and universities, the collaboration aims to bring the world of business to the classroom.
“Tech qualifications at this level should stretch and excite young people, introducing them to the absorbing world of computing and giving them the skills for a rewarding career," said Craig Wilson, managing director, UK and Ireland, at HP enterprise services, and Tech Partnership board member.
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“Instead, they seem to be putting potential tech stars off the subject altogether. It is time for government, industry and academia to work together to find a solution to this problem.”
Of those that took ICT and computing, only 27% were female, despite them accounting for over half (54%) of all A-Level students.
Just 314 girls took the more technically-demanding computing A-Level, a fall of 70% since 2004. However, girls who took the course did well, with 44% scoring the top three grades, compared with only 36% of boys.
“All tech employers want to recruit more women. We know that there is a pool of capable individuals with high potential that we simply can’t access," said Phil Smith, chief executive, UK & Ireland, at Cisco, and chair of the Tech Partnership.
“The failure of computing A-Level education to attract young women is a scandal and symptomatic of long-standing and profound problems in IT curricula. It’s clear that we need to act together and fast to create courses that are a magnet for young people – and for girls in particular.”
Karen Price, chief executive of the Tech Partnership, said “young people who are deterred from tech education by poor-quality content and uninspiring qualifications can be put off the sector for life.
"This is a profound concern for tech employers and it’s a tragedy for the young people who could miss out on the chance to build a worthwhile career," she said.
“The partnership is committed to improving this state of affairs, building on e-skills UK’s track record of successful interventions and working constructively with the many stakeholders in this area.”
Elsewhere, more students than ever have secured a place on a degree course. The number of students going to university or college to study a degree could top 500,000, according to Ucas.