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Coadec suggests increase in software development apprenticeships

Not-for-profit Coadec urges the technology industry and government to increase the number of available software development apprenticeships in the UK to tackle the growing skills crisis

Coadec has insisted on a “large-scale expansion” of software development apprenticeships to help bridge the technology skills gap.

Expanding the availability of software development apprenticeships is among the suggestions Coadec has outlined for the government and IT industry to help tackle the growing IT skills crisis in the UK.

The report said one of the most effective ways of addressing the industry’s need for highly skilled developers is to focus on funding and developing smaller apprenticeship programmes and introduce more degree apprenticeships.  

The report stated: “Our recommendation is that the Department for Education should pilot, with the intent of rapidly scaling, a modified degree apprenticeship model focused on developers.”

Degree apprenticeships usually involve a firm offering young people the opportunity to learn at the same time as working, allowing them to get their qualifications while simultaneously becoming integrated into the workplace.

According to Coadec, degree apprenticeships should provide funding for young people, both in and outside of education, who wish to become developers as well as ensure perspective employees are given the chance to finish training before they are taken on by an employer. The report said: “This is justified in an environment of very high skill shortages.”

The not-for-profit also suggested a shake-up of the adult education system, allowing individuals to access funding for a selection of specific courses which would teach the coding skills needed in firms.

Many believe that apprenticeships could be the answer to the growing IT skills gap, as firms can use apprentices as an immediate solution to some unfilled roles.

“Many current funded university routes have poor employment outcomes, while courses that are highly successful in the market cannot attract government funding. This is a clear distortion of employer and consumer preferences, and the apprenticeship system could be used to change this,” said the report.

The reason these guidelines around apprenticeships have been proposed is because many believe technology qualifications are too general and do not address the skills the industry currently needs.

Graduates ‘lack relevant skills’

There is also a disconnect between the education sector, government and the technology industry, meaning many of the graduates leaving university do not have the skills they need to walk into roles. The report said: “There are several frameworks for defining digital skills, and none of them map perfectly to industry.”

Despite the computing curriculum being introduced in 2014 to encourage more children into Stem, many believe the Stem industries still have a leaky pipeline and there are a lack of skilled people to fill roles.

Coadec’s report points to figures from Roehampton University, which found only 28.5% of schools entered pupils for GCSE computing exams, and only 24% took the subject for A-Level.

In some areas, no students were enrolled and this pace of adoption is not matching the speed needed by companies.

Coadec said increasing the number of students between the ages of 16 and 19 who take computing, mathematics or other Stem-based subjects is the easiest way to increase the tech talent pipeline. To do this, the government would have to make these subject mandatory rather than voluntary, it added.

The report said: “These subjects have minimal impact on the traditional system because university entrance, employment and ‘passing’ 16-19 education are not affected by doing these courses. They are entirely voluntary.”

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Many people in the UK lack the basic digital skills necessary to shop online or apply for modern jobs, and the level of knowledge of some subjects such as mathematics is not as advanced as in other countries.

In many other countries it is expected that children will study basic subjects, such as maths and English, beyond GCSE level.

The report said: “A recent OECD report found that young people were more likely to lack basic literacy and numeracy skills than their European contemporaries, even if they have completed degrees and high-level technical qualifications.”

The Coadec report suggested making basic levels of numeracy and literacy skills a requirements for all further and higher education to elevate everyone’s basic knowledge of core subjects.

Without these basic skills, it can make people difficult to re-train in later life because their knowledge of particular subject areas decline.

“None of these areas are unknown to government. There has been a plethora of announcements over the past several decades: from computing curricula in schools, to endless small Stem initiatives, to adult literacy programs. Many of those announcements have made a small, positive difference. Not one has transformed the system,” said the report.

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