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Theresa May announces boost to UK programming

A total of £40m in government and industry funding will be used to help bolster the UK’s programming skills gap

Prime minister Theresa May has announced £20m of funding for the Institute for Coding to support the UK’s next generation of digital specialists.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos, May said the institute would be a key part of the government’s efforts to drive up digital skills through the Industrial Strategy, which will equip people of all ages with the skills they need.

“We need to help people secure the jobs of tomorrow,” she said. “So we are establishing a technical education system that rivals the best in the world, alongside our world-class higher education system.

“We are developing a national retraining scheme to help people learn throughout their career. And we are establishing an Institute of Coding – a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts to support training and retraining in digital skills.

“I know from my conversations with tech companies how seriously they are taking their own social responsibility to contribute to the retraining that will help people secure new opportunities in the digital economy. But this strategy and partnership with business goes further than getting the fundamentals of our economy right. It also seeks to get us on the front foot in seizing the opportunities of technology for tomorrow.”

Major IT businesses supporting the Institute for Coding include IBM, Cisco and Microsoft among others, which will join forces with universities and industry bodies including BCS and Crest to boost future digital skills.

The 25 universities include the University of Bath, UCL and Newcastle University, the University of the Arts, the Open University and Birkbeck, University of London.

Universities minister Sam Gyimah said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills is essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cyber security to artificial intelligence to industrial design.”

The government’s £20m investment will be matched by a further £20m from industry, including in-kind contributions, such as training and equipment.

A number of reports have highlighted the need to develop digital skills to support the UK economy. A recent study from Barclays said 43% of UK adults lack the digital skills needed to do their job. Two years ago, Ecorys UK’s report Digital skills for the UK economy stated: “Most industries and sectors recognise that as they become increasingly digitised, there will be more demand for staff in general to have digital skills to varying degrees.”

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