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Computing Skills Crisis

Britain faces ‘growing shortage’ of digital skills – The Telegraph, July 2014

IT skills shortage still tops the technology agenda – Computer Weekly, November 2013

TIGA Warns Of UK Skills Shortage – Gamasutra, August 2010

Anyone involved in the computing or IT industry has been aware of this type of story that has been headlining the popular press in recent years, and although measures have been put in place to help close the skills gap, a serious omission is likely to compound the problem.

Where are the skilled educators to deliver courses to fill the IT skills gap?

Qualifications authorities can develop new courses designed to offer skills needed for the next generation of IT professionals, but who is going to teach the courses? Teaching is an aging profession. For many it has been a ‘job for life’, meaning that there is an aging population of lecturers, and there is a serious lack of newcomers to the profession. While the long holidays may have been an attractant in the past, any current trained software developer or network engineer is unlikely to be attracted by the salary of the average college or university lecturer.

£75,000 is not an unusual salary for a skilled software developer whose skills are in demand. That is almost twice the salary of a college or university lecturer, so who could blame the IT professional for remaining in their current job?

At a recent meeting of college computing managers the topic of retiring staff and the inability to recruit new staff was raised. Several college managers voiced their concerns that core skills would be lost and could not be replaced. Other managers complained of the lack of time and funding to train their current staff, with colleges already strapped for cash and under increasing budget constraints.

Another story from the education sector has staff complaining to college management about the lack of development time and training, but being told they weren’t a ‘special case’. Their argument is that it is unfair that lecturers in other disciplines, that are not subject to the rapid change of technology, do not suffer the same pressures as those in computing.

Indeed, what has changed in mathematics in the past 20 years, compared to computing? In 20 years we’ve seen the Internet, the Web, apps, mobile, C#, Python, virtual reality, cyber security, big data and countless new technologies that directly impact on education. How can anyone keep up with this rate of change and be adequately prepared to teach it?

It’s about time that someone with serious political clout addressed the issue lest Scotland become a digital backwater instead of the powerhouse it is hoped to become.

 

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