The FINANCIAL -- Aston University is to play a key role in developing the next generation of digital specialists as a partner of the new Institute of Coding (IoC), unveiled by the Prime Minister on January 25.
During her visit to Davos, Theresa May announced £20 million will be given to the IoC to tackle the country’s digital skills gap. Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2018, she outlined how the IoC will create new degree level courses to equip people of all ages with the digital skills they need, according to Aston University.
The IoC will consist of a consortium formed of businesses including IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 25 universities, and professional bodies such as the British Computer Society and CREST.
As part of the IoC, Aston University will deliver industry-accredited courses that include top quality computer science teaching alongside the business skills, interpersonal skills and real-world experience required for success in the digital economy.
Sam Gyimah, Universities Minister, said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design.
“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most. As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”
Professor Peter Sawyer, Head of Computer Science at Aston University, said: "The announcement of the IoC is great news for computer science at Aston. Our strong links with employers, the value employers place on our graduates and our innovation in programme delivery through our degree apprenticeship programmes makes the IoC a perfect fit for us and our students.
“We’re proud that we'll be playing a major role in the IoC by leading the work on provision for students who are already in employment, but our involvement spans almost all of the IoC themes, from student-led companies to widening participation - all areas were we have a strong track-record.
“The IoC will deliver huge benefits for students and employers in tech across England but Aston students and employers in the West Midlands in particular will find the quality and diversity of provision available undergoes a step change over the next few years."
The Institute of Coding is centred around five core themes:
University learners (led by the Open University) – To boost graduate employability through a new industry standard targeted at degree level qualifications. IoC programmes will incorporate learning which solves real-world business problems and develops business, technical and interpersonal skills in equal measure.
The digital workforce (led by Aston University) – To develop specialist skills training in areas of strategic importance.
Digitalising the professions (led by Coventry University) – To transform professions undergoing digital transformation (e.g. helping learners retrain via new digital training programmes provided through online and face-to-face learning)
Widening participation (led by Queen Mary University London) – To boost equality and diversity in technology-related education and careers (e.g. tailored workshops, bootcamps, innovative learning facilities and other outreach activities). In 2017, female programmers and software developers made up just 3.9 per cent of tech and telco professionals in the UK.
Knowledge sharing and sustainability (led by the University of Bath) – To share outcomes and good practice, ensuring long-term sustainability of the IoC. This will include building up an evidence base of research, analysis and intelligence to anticipate future skills gaps.
Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding, said: “The strength of the Institute of Coding lies in the fact that it brings together educators, employers and outreach groups to co-develop digital skills education at undergraduate and masters level for learners in universities, at work and in previously under-supported groups across the country.
“In addition, we’ll work with our partners to target underrepresented talent through outreach activities, tailored and inclusive curricula, flexible delivery and removal of barriers to working in the industry.”
BT, among others, will provide staff and training for the Institute of Coding’s undergraduate and masters programmes.
Rachel Higham, Managing Director of IT at BT (Technology, Service and Operations), said: “Digital skills are crucial to BT’s current and future success, but no company can fix the UK’s digital skills shortage on its own. By working together across industry and academia, the Institute of Coding will unlock access to a bigger and more diverse workforce, and support skills development for people at different stages of their careers.
“We are particularly pleased that industry will have the opportunity to build on its work within the Tech Partnership and our existing degree apprenticeship schemes, setting standards and promoting degrees that are aligned to employer needs.”
Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: “The benefits to students from the Institute of Coding are clear: exciting courses designed to meet the needs of employers; exposure to leading research; and increased work experience to support the development of their employability skills and transition to work.
“I am delighted that the Institute also aims to encourage more women into the digital sector.”
Kathryn Parsons, Founder of Decoded and Chair of the DfE Advisory Board, said: “I strongly believe the UK can be the best place for technology education in the world. This month London was named the top European city for tech investment and the UK’s digital sector is creating jobs twice as fast as the rest of the economy.
“We are a nation of entrepreneurs, problem-solvers; of collaborators, and the Institute of Coding marks a further investment in this heritage. It has the power to bring together education and business to ensure we have the skills to drive innovation and be a global leader in the fourth industrial revolution.”