The prime minister announced last week £20 million to set up a national institute to develop digital and computer science skills of graduates and professionals. The funds will be matched by an additional £20 million from across the large consortium of universities and employers including IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft.

The universities involved, led by the University of Bath, range from leaders in business and computer science (UCL and Newcastle University) to experts in arts and design (the University of the Arts) and specialists in widening participation and outreach (Open University and Birkbeck College).

The Digital Skills Gap

The digital economy has seen rapid growth in recent years and a report from Tech Nation estimates an annual turnover of £170 billion and further private investment of £6.8 billion. It’s anticipated that 1.2 million digitally skilled people will be needed by 2022 but current estimates suggest there won’t be enough skilled people to meet that growing digital demand.

And there is evidence to suggest the existing skills gap and unfilled vacancies have a negative impact on the economy, with an O2 report on digital skills showing that loss of economic output associated with unfilled digital vacancies could cost the UK between £1.6 billion and £2.4 billion each year.

What will the Institute of Coding do?

The Institute of Coding (IoC) will collaborate with universities and employers to grow and develop the digital skills capabilities of the workforce. The IoC will develop new degree level programmes meeting the needs of industry and providing quality work experience opportunities. This activity will enhance the employability and work readiness of students and graduates.

IoC programmes will incorporate learning that solves real-world business problems and develops business, technical and interpersonal skills in equal measure. The Institute will also make use of new technologies to develop innovative learning platforms, learning analytics, virtual boot camps, and online programming labs.

Who is it for?

The IoC will bring down barriers to access, and support a diverse range of users through different stages in their careers – including undergraduate and postgraduate students, career changers, digital professionals, returners, and apprentices.

The Institute will also encourage underrepresented groups into digital careers and onto digital courses, including women who represent only 26% of the digital workforce and only 12.8% of the STEM workforce.

The Digital Revolution

Demand for skills is increasing due to globalisation, increased automation, and emerging technologies including cyber security and artificial intelligence. Increased digitalisation presents opportunities but also some challenges, specifically a possibility of creating inequalities in employment access and career development.

Digitalisation is changing the world of work. There is increased demand for high level skills so employees without these skills are at risk of being displaced (OECD Policy Brief 2016). As a result, it is vital that employees have access to the digital skills training needed to succeed in modern workplaces.

With increased digitalisation and ubiquitous social media, most citizens come into contact with and are affected by digital technology. It is vital that current and future generations possess the skills necessary to function in a digital age and are able to further develop their digital skills as greater technologies emerge. Future generations need to prepare for jobs of the future – particularly when you consider that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented.

From a policy perspective, digitalisation presents challenges both for wider society and the economy. For example, policymakers consider whether and how to guarantee a certain level of digital access for all citizens and how to provide quality education though digital technologies in schools. Over 12 million people in the UK do not have basic digital skills, which is an obstacle to people wishing to apply for jobs, trying to access GP appointments or simply wanting to reduce bills by looking at price comparison sites.

The activities of the IoC are broad and the vision to tackle the digital skills gap is ambitious.  With such significant employer and university expertise and commitment, we are confident the IoC will make real progress and we look forward to seeing the first courses going live later in 2018.

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