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A quarter of UK developers are self-taught

As the skills gap leaves firms scrambling for tech talent, self-taught developers are taking advantage of the need for skilled workers

More than a quarter of developers in the UK are self-taught and have no university education, research has found.

A study by jobs website Hired has found 26% of developers in the UK have no listed university education, and have taught themselves coding skills.

Hired’s CEO Mehul Patel said some firms put a lot of stake in a potential candidates CV, and they could be missing out on talented people who are more likely to fit into the organisation’s culture.

“People tend to look for certain major indicators of success, but you need to have a hiring process that’s flexible enough to recognise talent even if they don’t have the right school or the right degree. The folk who self-teach and self-learn are passionate and dedicated,” he said.

There is currently a skills gap in the UK, with firms unable to find candidates with the tech skills they need to fill roles and empty digital jobs costing the economy approximately £2bn a year.

Hired’s research found a growing gap between demand for security and data experts and the number of people with these particular skills.

In the past 12 months, there has been a 222% increase in the number of interview requests made by employers for security engineering roles, and a 234% increase for data engineers.

Patel claimed although there has been an increase in the number of employers looking for people to fill these roles, the domestic supply has not risen to match it.

“The areas most in demand in the digital economy are, unsurprisingly, security and data. There is a widening gap between demand for these services and the lack of supply to match that,” he said.

According to the research, part of the problem is a lack of supply coming from the UK, with a third of tech talent coming to the UK from the European Union (EU).

UK talent shortage

“If there’s a growing skills gap, there is also a supply issue – particularly a domestic supply issue,” said Patel.

Research shows there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of UK computer science undergraduates, but whether they are leaving university with the skills they need to enter the tech workplace is a different story.

“Over the past decade computer science graduate numbers have declined, so there are less people with computer science degrees,” said Patel.

Children in the UK between the ages of five and 16 are required to learn about coding and computational thinking as part of the curriculum.

“There has been good progress in terms of building tech into the national curriculum, but it has not gone far enough – even coding is very recent,” said Patel.

Read more about the skills gap

  • The Science and Technology Committee says the UK is facing a digital skills crisis and calls on government to publish its Digital Strategy “without further delay”.
  • A technology security skills shortage is leaving firms at increasing risk of cyber security attacks.

More than 80% of the people taking computer science degrees in the UK in 2015 were men, and Patel warns companies of shutting out “half of the population who could add value”.

Patel claimed some of this lack of uptake in computer science over the past few years could be down to negative perceptions and stereotypes of the industry.

“There’s a perception issue in the UK where software engineering isn’t seen as a very desirable career choice,” he said. “As a young student in the UK you will be taught information technology, but it’s not enough to really equip you and get you excited.”

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment

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Not surprising. I know some developers that got their feet wet debugging code and became developers in their own right. No real formal education. And a lot of young kids today in their teens and even pre-teen are learning to code.
Most of the skills I've learned in Tech have been self taught, often through trial and error. Today's schools and universities are based on an outdated model of delivery which frankly isn't keeping up with changes in tech.
It's a great way to start, but it does seem like especially in data structures and so on you do want some formal methodology. You can certainly write a program to accomplish a function, but writing it to ensure that it doesn't break and can be updated and can be understood by the people who come after you is another matter.
I totally agree with Sharon. Learning to program was difficult enough with a formal education.  I don't think that I could have managed being self-taught. Of course anyone can find a tutorial and write some code, but you'd really be lacking a solid understanding. 
I agree as well. There may be many ways to get from point A to point B in a project. The real skill comes for doing it in the most efficient and flexible way. It needs to be able to understood by others in the department.. Many years ago when I first started coding (used punch cards for the  code and data)  we had a coder that used 1 or 2 char variables. Things like a1 + b1 = c2.. 
Nobody could pick up his program and tell you what it did without a lot of lost time researching it.