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Education and Training

Qualifications and training in IT, computer studies and computer science range from GCSE and A Level (or equivalent), vocational qualifications, apprenticeships, HNC/D and degree level. The number of students undertaking IT qualifications in compulsory and post-compulsory education has continued to increase over the last few years – a trend predicted to continue.

Although apprenticeships provide an alternative route into the sector, a degree is still the preferred option for those wishing to enter an IT professional role. It is possible to enter the IT sector without a degree or apprenticeship, but relevant work experience and IT User level skills are important. IT User skills include:

  • Word processing software
  • Database software
  • Presentation software
  • Spreadsheet software

For more detailed statistics of women in IT education and training see the UK Resource Centre for Women in science, engineering and technology website.

Click here for more information on the following IT related qualifications: ITQ and e-skills passport

Source: e-skills UK AACS LMI 2009


Qualification level of the IT and Telecoms workforce

IT professionals tend to be better qualified than the general workforce. 58% of IT professionals have attained a degree or equivalent higher education qualification, compared to 33% of the UK workforce. Of the rest of the IT workforce, 20% have a GCE A level or equivalent qualification; 14% have GSCEs grades A-C or equivalent; 7% have other qualifications; and 1% have no academic qualifications. However, the number of students taking IT related GCSE and A Level or equivalent qualifications is decreasing. Since 2003, there has been a 50% decline in the overall numbers taking Computing A Levels and a 32% decline in ICT A Levels. This is of particular concern as these courses are pertinent to those wishing to take a higher education course in this area.

Telecoms professionals are significantly less likely than IT professionals to have higher levels of qualification.

Compared to all other occupations, the IT professional workforce and those working in the IT industry are highly qualified. Males working in the sector are more likely than their female equivalents to hold levels 4 or 5 qualifications, the reverse of that seen across all other occupations in the UK.

Employers expect people leaving tertiary education to have reached Intermediate-Advanced level in all aspects of IT user skills. Those leaving higher education are expected to have advanced user skills and expertise in particular areas.

Source: e-skills UK AACS LMI 2009, Technology Counts 2008 and Women in IT Scorecard 2008

For information on the qualifications and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) go to the qualifications and training section of the e-skills UK website.

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Further education

The further education (FE) sector provides skills development courses, including partial courses and short training courses, for existing and prospective IT professionals. In 2005/06 :

  • there were 17,585 enrolments to FE IT professional LSC funded programmes
  • 495 enrolments to FE Telecoms LSC funded programmes in England
  • just over 4,000 people in learning on IT and Telecoms professional courses
  • 408,000 enrolments on FE IT user LSC funded programmes, 53% of which were at Level 1
  • 6,610 enrolments to LSC funded IT user work based learning qualifications including 5,065 to ITQ
  • 100,000 people were in learning IT user courses in Wales

In 2006/07, there was an estimated 16,723 ITQ certifications and over 77,000 enrolments on IT related courses delivered in Scotland’s colleges.

In 2008, there were 2,175 certifications IT professional NVQs (compared to 1,205 certifications in 2007) and 1,905 Telecoms NVQ certifications (compared to 1,710 in 2007).

Source: Assessment of Current Provision 2008

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Future trends in further education

Future trends in further education are focused on them playing a key role in:

  • the continuing professional development of the IT workforce and IT users that need to keep the rapid technological developments
  • developing, with employers, an integrated route for technology related academic, vocational and work-based learning
  • effectively diagnosing IT user skills levels in order to define developmental plans
  • supporting smaller companies and business managers develop the competence and skills to realise the potential of IT

Source: IT Insights: Assessment of Current Provision 2005

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IT courses and higher education

There are nearly 3,000 undergraduate IT related courses (that cover some aspect of Computing from animation through engineering to web design) and over 600 postgraduate courses involving Computer Science / Information Technology. In addition there are a few conversion courses for graduates of other disciplines. Some universities offer Foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Higher National Certificates (HNCs). These qualifications usually include work-related learning that is not found in degrees in the same subject.

Through Higher Education, there was a total of 20,600 Computing acceptances in 2007 of which: 17,200 were for degrees (83%); 1,455 were for HNDs (7%); and 1,920 were for Foundation degrees (9%).

A degree with a minimum of a 2.1 is still the preferred qualification for those wishing to apply for IT professional roles. Most employers accept graduates from any degree discipline, but the following IT-related degree families should be considered:

  • Business Information Technology
  • Computing
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Games and Digital Media

Whilst the number of qualifiers across all subjects has risen over recent years, the number of female and male qualifiers from Computer Science and IT related subjects is declining. The numbers are expected to continue to decline for some time. The Open University and the University of Teesside have the highest number of IT qualifiers.

For mature entrants the majority of employers still require a degree level education, but relevant work experience will also be taken into consideration.

14,465 graduates reported having entered the IT & Telecoms workforce within six months of graduation, of which:

  • 45% were from Computing or Telecoms degrees
  • 55% from other disciplines (including: Business and Administrative Studies (10%); Engineering (9%); Creative Arts & Design (4%) and the remaining 22% come from a myriad of different degree courses)

The most common IT occupational areas entered by graduates are Computer Analysts and Programmers and Software Designers/Engineers. 21% of graduates entering IT or Telecoms occupations find employment in London with a further 15% in the South East.

Source: e-skills UK AACS LMI 2009, Technology Counts 2008,Women in IT Scorecard 2008 and Assessment of Current Provision 2008

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Future trends in higher education

For higher education future trends are focused on:

  • industry needs to work closely with higher education to support the development and delivery of up-to-date IT related degree courses
  • employers and educators need to work together to ensure that innovation through IT is embedded in all degree courses
  • clearly defined pathways for technology-related education needs to be developed to best attract high calibre students and students from non-traditional backgrounds
  • higher education playing a key role in the continuing professional development of the IT workforce that need to keep the rapid technological developments

Source: IT Insights: Assessment of Current Provision 2005

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Workplace training and apprenticeships

The IT industry is most likely to fund and arrange training for its staff; this also includes training in new technologies. On average the IT industry spends £668 on training per employee per annum. 61% of employers organise their own training which primarily comprises training in new technologies (twice as likely as employers in other sectors). The majority of employers see training as a way of addressing skill shortages and skill gaps. Overall, 25% of IT and Telecoms professionals received training in the last year. ICT staff in large and/or the public sector firms are most likely to have received training than those working in micro sites and/or the primary sector.

The barriers to training identified by employers include:

  • lack of cover for training
  • unwillingness of staff
  • high turnover of staff
  • lack of time, funding and accessible, suitable courses

Apprenticeships are available across the sector. There is also a “fast-track” apprenticeship which leads to a full Honours degree via a Foundation Degree. This work-based training and development programme demands high standards and aims to raise the skill levels of people available to the ICT industry to degree level.

Apprenticeships are aimed at students with A Levels or equivalent educational attainment (such as GNVQ, Baccalaureate or relevant Level 3 IT related technical qualification). However, most employers ask for 5 GCSEs at Grade C or above (or equivalent) including Maths and English. Advanced apprenticeships are available to those wishing to progress further in the sector, including both employees with A Levels or equivalent and employees who have worked in the industry for a number of years and demonstrated that they have a reasonable expectation of achieving the stated outcomes.

Source: e-skills UK AACS LMI 2009, e-skills UK website 2009, Technology Counts 2008, Staff Training in the UK 2008 and IT Insights: Assessment of Current Provision 2005

For more information on Foundation Degrees go to the e-skills UK website.

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Workforce development in IT

The Sector Skills Agreement for IT is an action plan outlining a common strategy for the next 3 years to unite employers, educators and government on a common agenda for change. The action plan sets out a clear strategy and four solutions are outlined:

  • make IT careers more attractive
  • prepare the future workforce
  • develop the existing workforce
  • improve the existing infrastructure

For workforce development, the e-business academy will enable individuals and businesses to access the resources needed (from for example bite-size courses, apprenticeships and degrees) to become more competitive in the e-economy.

The ITQ/e-skills Passport is a practical qualification. The employer and individual can set skills profiles, create a plan, and monitor progress towards the ITQ. Attainments are recorded on a Passport so training courses can be targeted at the skills needed and it is clear what IT skills an individual can offer a potential employer.

Source: e-skills UK Sector Skills Agreement 2006

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Future trends in education and training

  • The UK needs to build a new IT skills development infrastructure through collaboration between government, educators, employers and employees.
  • New delivery methods that integrate work-based, vocational and academic learning need to be development.
  • There needs to be consideration of the difficulties of releasing employees from work (especially in small companies).
  • Private training can not deliver the necessary IT skills development needed in the UK.
  • Skills development and training courses must take account of those individuals who are at risk of exclusion.
  • Employers and employees must share responsibility for skills development.

Source: IT Insights: Assessment of Current Provision 2005

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