Skills gap is at an all-time high despite increase in computer science students

The number of students taking GCSE or undergraduate courses for computer science has risen year-on-year, according to new research.

UCAS data indicates that there were 16% more applications for undergraduate computing courses, with 179,600 applicants compared to 155,290 the year before. And that 81,210 students sat the GCSE in 2022, compared to just 79,964 in 2021.

However, despite the increase at a student level, the UK’s skills gap is still widening with employers said to be struggling to recruit talent, according to data from global technology company OKdo. In the organization’s Computer Science in the Classroom report, experts suggest that the rise in student numbers is still a long way off from meeting current demand in the workplace.

A recent report from Tech Nation also revealed that tech vacancies are at a 10-year high across the globe. In the UK alone, these types of roles are up 191% compared to 2020.

There are also diversity issues too as there is still a large disparity between the number of male and female students, according to OKdo. Of the 81,120 students sitting GCSE computer science, 79% (63,856) were male, while only 21% (17,264) were girls. Although, this was the largest cohort of female students since examinations began in 2014.

“The jobs of tomorrow require skilled and digitally enabled employees, as they are the key to business success and international economic development,” said Dr. Paul Rivers, the managing director at Guidance Automation. ‘However, there remains a lack of education and awareness about where students can start this process. This needs to change and become more accessible in order to prepare workforces – and businesses – for a digital future.”

Rivers adds that there are several “unmet” promises from the government around up-skilling and funding for technology. This includes confusion around the national skills fund. He also suggests that UK leaders seem to prioritize automation and robotics, but the necessary skills for both are not being prioritized at the education level.

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