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Top 10 IT careers and skills stories of 2016

As the year draws to a close, Computer Weekly looks at the top 10 IT skills and careers stories in

In 2016, the focus was on finding different ways to encourage children into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, with the discussion surrounding apprenticeships increasing.

In the past, firms have complained they cannot find workers with the skills they need to fill roles, and 2016 was directed towards finding out what skills these candidates need to fill the IT skills gap.

With the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the year closed with uncertainty around the UK skills market, and concerns surrounding whether the UK’s talent pipeline will be able to meet the industry’s needs in the future.

1. Ofsted ‘should monitor computing success in schools over five years’

The introduction of computing into the UK curriculum in 2014 aimed to ensure kids learnt the skills they needed to cope in an increasingly digital workforce in the future.

But Bill Mitchell, director of education for the BCS, claimed Ofsted should monitor schools’ progress in delivering the computing curriculum over the next five years rather than assess them now.

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum, Mitchell said the computing curriculum could be more successful if Ofsted asked schools to produce a roadmap for delivering it, which could be assessed against school outcomes over the next five years to properly understand the curriculum’s success rate.

2. Education, industry and government mismatch main barrier to digital skills

In early 2016, research found that initiatives put in place by the government to increase children’s digital skills may end up siloed and overlooked.

A report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) found a lack of collaboration to be the main barrier to improving digital skills in the UK.

The report stated that as councils, schools and employers do not work together in solving the skills gap, the local output of talent does not match the local skills demand.

3. More students choose higher education computing courses

In the beginning of 2016, it was found an increased number of people chose to enrol on full-time Stem courses at the beginning of the academic year.

Though the figures did not increase by much, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed the number of students enrolled in UK undergraduate computer science courses increased by 2% between the academic years of 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Prior to university level, the number of students choosing to take A-level computing also increased, with 6,242 students taking computing A-levels, marking a rise of 859 from the previous year.

4. Average tech salaries rose by 2% over the past year

The average salary for a person in tech rose by 2% between 2014 and 2015 to to £46,969, according to research.

A study by jobs website Dice found twice the number of tech employees were earning a six-figure salary than in the previous year, and an increase was seen in salaries, bonuses and contract rates across the board.

5. Teens interested in tech, but few seek career in engineering

A report by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) worryingly found that 82% of 16 to 17-year-olds in the UK think engineering is integral to the future of technology innovation, but only 21% would be interested in an engineering career.

The QEPrize’s research found many teens would be more interested in a career in engineering if they felt they would be able to make a societal change by doing their job.

6. Digital education in the UK is “patchy”, says Capgemini executive

As the year reached its halfway point, Capgemini’s chairman, Christine Hodgson, labelled the UK’s digital education system as “patchy”, and claimed the level of digital skills taught in schools varies across the UK.

Hodgson also noted that schools in the UK are often unable to keep up with the fast pace of technology, making it more difficult for all schools to offer a consistent technology education and experience for children across the board.

As the need for a basic knowledge of digital even in non-tech jobs, Hodgson said people across all sectors will need to know how to use tech, and a lack of digital skills early on could lead to an unwillingness to learn and use technology in the future.

7. Greater focus on UK tech talent essential in face of Brexit

In June 2016, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union threatened to put a strain on an already dwindling UK talent pipeline.

Andrew Horne, practice leader at business management consultant firm CEB, claimed firms are likely to cut spending in the wake of Brexit, and many IT projects might be frozen or cut, possibly along with jobs.

In some parts of the tech sector, for example, the gaming industry, many workers come to the UK from overseas, meaning that losing some of the talent in the UK due to cross-border barriers is a possibility.

Many claimed an emphasis on developing our own UK tech talent pipeline should be made in the following years, both to fill the current IT skills gap and deal with any problems leaving the EU may bring.

8. Internet of things increases demand for tech skills

There have been many technology trends which have called for a need in specific skills, and as the internet of things (IoT) has become more prominent, so has the need for related skills.

Data visualisation, Mysql programming and machine learning development skills are increasingly required in the wake of IoT adoption, according to research by freelancing website Upwork.

These were not the only skills in demand in 2016, with a huge emphasis put on data science and cyber security skills for many firms looking to innovate.

9. Government announces digital apprenticeship service as part of apprenticeship levy guidelines

As the year drew to a close, the government released guidelines for its upcoming apprenticeship levy, including how business can use funds from the levy to train apprentices.

The levy will come into play in 2017, allowing businesses of all types to take on and train apprentices.

The government has announced it will launch digital apprenticeship services as part of the levy to help businesses properly apply for and implement their apprenticeship schemes.

Apprenticeships were a huge topic in 2016, with many firms claiming they think an increase in apprenticeships could help to close the IT skills gap.

10. Government provides free digital skills training to unskilled adults

In light of the shifting landscape, both in tech and the UK’s political landscape, the government ended the year by offering to provide free skills training to adults across the UK.

This training aims to help adults across the nation who do not currently have the digital skills needed to properly participate in modern society.

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