creative soul - Fotolia

Top 10 IT careers and skills stories of 2017

As the year draws to a close, Computer Weekly looks at developments in the technology careers and skills sector in 2017

The world is growing more digitally-focused, making skills in digital and technology important for everyone in the future.

Home-grown technology skills will be important in the near future when the UK’s decision to leave the European Union threatens to drive skilled technologists from the UK.

In 2017 both the government and technology firms have increased their focus on providing these skills to supplement the computing curriculum and boost the tech talent pipeline.

1. Microsoft to teach more than 560,000 people digital skills

The year kicked off with technology giant Microsoft announcing a programme designed to teach more than 560,000 people digital skills over the next three years.

Many other firms also stepped in to try and increase people’s digital and technical skills both in the UK and around the world.

Networking firm Cisco launched a programme to help give 250,000 people in the UK digital skills by 2020, and Facebook vowed to teach 10,000 women digital skills by the end of the year.

2. Bett 2017: Knowing what edtech to invest in is a challenge for schools

It can be difficult for schools to keep up with technology trends due to the fast pace of change and the cost of adoption.

At the beginning of 2017 at the Bett 2017 education technology show, the then minster for higher education, skills, apprenticeships and careers, Rob Halfon, claimed knowing what technologies to invest in can be a huge problem for schools.

Halfon suggested that schools who are on the right track in their technology investment should help other schools to decide what technology to use.

3. DCMS announces cyber clubs programme to teach 6,000 students cyber skills

In a bid to increase the UK’s cyber-security skill, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced in early 2017 that it would be launching a series of clubs designed to teach young people cyber-security skills.

Cyber professionals are currently lacking in the technology industry, and many are concerned that although young people are well adept at using technology they do not properly understand some of the safety implications that come alongside it.

The DCMS’s extra-curricular clubs aimed to reach 6,000 teenagers who are already enthusiastic about cyber by 2021.

4. Almost three-quarters of tech workers thinking of leaving UK after Brexit

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union raised concerns about the skills that would be available to the technology industry once Brexit occurs.

A year on, a report by Hired found 70% of technology workers have considered moving to another city after Brexit, taking their technical skills with them.

In addition, the number of potential skilled candidates for tech jobs who are willing to take a role in the UK significantly dropped.

5. Only 9% of parents want kids to be tech entrepreneurs

Parents would prefer their children to pursue more traditional roles than tech roles, as study found in 2017.

While the UK’s digital skills gap calls out for young people to choose careers in tech, parents would much rather their children become doctors, teachers or lawyers, with only 9% claiming they would be happy for their kids to become tech entrepreneurs.

It also became clear that female students are much less likely to consider a role in technology than male students.

6. Boys outperform girls in 2017 computing A-levels

As the summer exam results for A-Levels and GCSE’s came in, the technology industry grew concerned about the continued lack of students choosing science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.

A-Level computing saw boys slightly out-perform girls, whereas ICT results saw the reverse, with girls achieving higher grades.

But the very small increase in pupils choosing to take the subject led to concern for the future of the technology skills gap.

7. Government launches digital skills survey to find out more about UK’s needs

In a bid to find out what digital and technical skills the UK needs, the government launched a survey asking employers with digital and technical employees what skills they need for their organisations now, and what skills they are likely to need in the future.

DCMS hopes this information will help the government to develop policies in the future which will address the digital skills gap.

In 2017 the government also launched new T-Levels to act as a vocational alternative to A-Levels, specialising in more technical subjects such as digital.

8. Less than half of adults have skills to complete basic digital tasks

Near the tail end of the year, a study found just over 40% of adults have the skills needed to complete even basic digital tasks that are becoming expected in the modern workplace.

In the UK 43% of people don’t have the digital skills required for most jobs, and different regions across the UK are impacted differently, with London more likely to have skilled people.

Though many believe employers should work with the government and education providers to fill the IT skills gap, but many CIOs pointed the finger at schools, claiming IT education does not match the needs of employers.

9. Google invests £1m to help train UK computing teachers

In 2017 there was an increased focus on giving teachers the skills they need to properly teach students the skills they will need to feed the tech talent pipeline.

Google invested £1m in training for secondary school teachers in the UK to help them develop better skills in computer science.

The computing curriculum was introduced to ensure more children were leaving schools with basic digital skills, but many teachers don’t feel they have the skills to teach some of the concepts that come along with the new curriculum, such as coding.

10. Building, recruiting and retaining digital talent for an automated tech-driven future

As some technology tasks become easier to automate, the skills required of technical workers is shifting and becoming more creative.

In 2017 recruitment firm Mortimer Spinks found 75% of non-technical workers would consider a career in tech, but stereotypes sometimes prevent them from making this jump – either because they don’t know what a tech role involves or they believe they cannot gain the skills they need for these roles.

More still needs to be done to train, attract and retain people with technical skills to fuel the technology talent pipeline and close the skills gap in the UK.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment