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Supply of Computer Science Skills Still Isn’t Meeting Demand in the ‘Swelling Tech Sector’

Computer science

The number of young women sitting computer science courses has risen, but still remains low – experts believe engaging more female students is key to the industry’s continual growth. 

  • Just 1.4% of GCSE students sat the ‘Computer Science’ course in 2020.
  • More than three times as many young men (61,500) sat the ‘Computer Science’ GCSE in 2020 than young women (16,919).
  • More female students are achieving higher grades in the Computer Science GCSE, and many other STEM subjects.
  • UCAS accepted applications for Computer Science undergraduate courses have risen 49% in the last decade, but the number of female students still remains low (16%).
  • The average advertised salary for the top ten Computer Science careers is 19% higher than the average for all other roles.
  • For more information from OKdo’s Computer Science in The Classroom report, please visit: https://www.okdo.com/computer-science-in-the-classroom-report/

More than four in every 100 advertised jobs in the UK require computer science skills, but experts warn that supply is currently failing to meet demand in this surging sector and there are still not enough young adults choosing this as a career at school or university. 

The new ‘computer science in the classroom’ report by OKdo, the global technology company from Electrocomponents plc, highlights that while progress has been made in the last decade to engage students this subject at school, more work is needed to ensure the thriving tech sector can continue to grow in the UK. 

Through analysis of GCSE results data from the Joint Council for Qualifications, OKdo discovered that the number of students taking the Computer Science course in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has steadily increased since it was launched: 16,773 sat the examinations and were awarded a grade in 2014 versus 78,459 in 2020 (up 367%). However, this still only represents 1.4% of all students. 

It is also a subject that continues to be dominated by male students, despite female students typically achieving higher grades. Three times as many young men (61,520 – 2.2% of all male students) sat the course in 2020 than young women (16,919 – 0.6%) with 32% of the male students being awarded a grade 7 or above – equivalent to an A or A* in the previous grading system. In comparison, 41% of the female students were awarded a grade of 7+.  

This pattern of high performance amongst female students has been consistent since 2014 and is reflected across other STEM subjects too: in the last decade, the only STEM subject where more male students have consistently earned higher GCSE grades was Mathematics. 

Regionally, Ofqual data revealed that the highest number of Computer Science students have been based in Greater London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire. 

Looking at undergraduate UCAS accepted applications for Computer Science courses, OKdo also saw that this figure has continued to rise over time – from 13,405 in 2011 to 20,035 in 2020 (up 49%). However, again there are still very few female students – just 3,200 (16%) in 2020 – and overall, just 4.14% of students are being accepted onto computer science courses. 

Looking at the future prospects of those considering a career in computer science, there are currently more than 40,000 jobs across the UK that require relevant skills and qualifications – representing 4.21% of all ‘open’ roles (956,049). The majority of these are based in the South East and London. 

According to jobs data from Adzuna, the number of advertised roles did drop at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but this is already back up to pre-Covid levels and in some instances, recruitment is at near-record level. 

Salary prospects are also good – the current average salary of a graduate software engineer is £48,787 – over £20k more than a marketing graduate (£26,454), Paralegal (£22,803) or teaching assistant (£19,802). Across the ten most common computer science careers, the average salary was £42,023, while the average salary for advertised roles in the UK currently stands at £35,444.  

Salaries in the ten most common computer sciences careers have been consistently above the UK average since 2014. 

But a high salary alone may not be enough to tempt female talent. In a recent Kaspersky report on Women in Tech, 42% of women said that better marketing on the positive impacts that IT or technical skills can have within society was the most important measure to attract them into the industry. Just one in three (33%) women in a tech role were encouraged to learn IT skills at their school, college or university. 

Andrew Hunter, Co-Founder of job search engine Adzuna, comments:  

“The last few months have seen a surge in hiring for Tech and Digital roles, with the sector taking on staff at near-record volumes. Software Developers are in particular demand, accounting for over 1 in 100 of all the job ads currently on offer within the UK. There are also over five thousand Web Designer and Data Analyst roles lying open. The tough ask for employers is finding the skilled talent to meet this growing need. We urgently need to focus on upskilling and retraining the workforce into Computer Science-related roles to serve the swelling Tech sector and support even more future job creation.” 

Nicki Young, President of OKdo added:  

“Our research highlights just how important it is that the number of students studying computer science at GCSE and beyond – and choosing this as a career – continues to gain momentum. The tech industry has been reliably growing, and there is high demand for talented people with this specific skillset.   

“I hold a computer science degree and know from experience that even at an entry level, those coming into computer science roles are required to have a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise that is typically acquired through education. This in turn is reflected in the high entry level salaries. Getting more young students engaged in this subject early on will be key to enabling this industry’s continued growth, alongside the retraining of people looking for a fresh challenge in a thriving sector.   

“Progress has been made, but there is more work to do to really engage the tech talent of tomorrow. A Data Analyst, a Software Developer, a Web Designer – these should be aspired careers. This is particularly important amongst female students who are still studying STEM subjects in low numbers but have proven themselves to be highly capable; typically achieving higher grades than male students. I have led a large technology outfit with 100s of members, as a result I have been fortunate to have worked with some incredible women in tech, but there are still too few, and it is something I have always been passionate about addressing. We all have a responsibility to do more to showcase role model women in Technology, and all areas of STEM, to inspire the next generation.” 

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