Institute of Coding launched in UK to tackle digital skills gap

A new £40 million Institute of Coding that will teach people digital skills such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence is to be set up in the UK.

The venture will be launched by a consortium of more than 60 universities, industry experts and businesses, including Microsoft, in a bid to tackle the country’s digital skills gap.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister Theresa May said the institute would be a key part of the government’s efforts to drive up digital skills and equip people of all ages with the skills they need.

It is believed that 65% of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet, and more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022 – three times the number of UK computer science students who graduated in the past 10 years. Just 5% of computer scientists are female, while people returning to work and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are also vastly underrepresented within the sector.

Female student using SUrface laptop in classroom
The institute aims to deliver practical digital skills to higher education students and those already in employment

The institute aims to deliver practical digital skills to higher education students and those already in employment via industry-accredited courses at 25 traditional universities across Britain, and education providers such as the Open University, Birkbeck and FutureLearn.

It will be funded via a £20 million investment from the Government, which said digital skills are “essential” to economic growth, and £20 million from the consortium and other industry partners.

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.

“Courses will be made available at undergraduate and masters levels, alongside short courses in areas of strategic importance including data science, artificial intelligence and cyber security.

“In addition, we’ll work with our partners to implement a Widening Participation programme to target underrepresented talent through outreach activities, tailored and inclusive curricula, flexible delivery and removal of barriers to working in the industry.”

code on a computer screen
Prime Minister Theresa May said the institute would be a key part of the government’s efforts to drive up digital skills

The institute will focus on five core themes:

  • University learners – To boost graduate employability through a new industry standard targeted at degree level qualifications. Programmes at the institute will incorporate learning that solves real-world business problems and develops business, technical and interpersonal skills.
  • The digital workforce – To develop specialist skills training in areas of strategic importance.
  • Digitalising the professions – 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 – To boost equality and diversity in technology-related education and careers (e.g. tailored workshops, bootcamps, innovative learning facilities and other outreach activities)
  • Knowledge sharing and sustainability – To share outcomes and good practice, ensuring long-term sustainability of the institute. This will include building up an evidence base of research, analysis and intelligence to anticipate future skills gaps.

Microsoft will offer a technology curriculum that will prepare students for a digital career, digital literacy skills that employers are looking for and free software, among other services.

The company’s participation in the consortium builds on its own efforts to improve digital skills across the UK. Last year Microsoft revealed it will train 30,000 public servants for free in a range of related areas, and committed to making sure everyone in the UK has access to free, online digital literacy training. It also launched a Cloud Skills Initiative, which will train 500,000 people in the UK in advanced cloud technology skills by 2020.

The company will recruit an extra 30,000 digital apprentices through its own programme for its network of 25,000 partners in the UK, adding to the 11,000 apprentices already in roles. Microsoft will also ensure more women and minority groups are included and supported in these schemes.

Learn more about Microsoft’s Digital Skills Programme

Girl using Microsoft Surface Book

Speaking about the firm’s involvement in the Institute of Coding, Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft, said: “Microsoft is delighted to be a key partner in the new Institute of Coding. We are committed to a programme that brings together the best of academia and industry to empower the current and next generation of digital leaders and enable the UK to become a stronger digital-first economy.

“Our free Digital Skills programme is designed to help everyone in the UK by enabling them to develop the skills they need to be successful in the fourth industrial revolution. Our contribution to the Institute draws on this comprehensive offering and our work with the Tech Partnership, educators, apprentices and those at every stage in their careers.

“We are excited to bring our expertise to the partnership which will drive forward innovation and the technologies and skills of tomorrow.”

The consortium is led by the University of Bath and also includes companies such as IBM, Cisco and BT.

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