Birkbeck to be partner in new Institute of Coding announced by Prime Minister

School of Business, Economics and Informatics is part of a successful consortium to deliver a new £40M Government-led initiative to plug digital skills gap.

Prime Minister Theresa May today announced a new £40M Institute of Coding (IoC) designed to boost the employability of computer scientists, plug the digital skills gap and bring more people from underrepresented groups into the tech sector, which is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy.

Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics is a partner in the consortium and will contribute through its expertise in flexible study and enterprise partnerships. More than 500,000 highly trained computer scientists will be needed by 2022, but the digital skills gap means many need a wider skills base to be more attractive to employers. The Institute will deliver innovative education to learners in industry, higher education and hard-to-reach groups.

Led by University of Bath, a world-class consortium comprising universities, industry, training providers and professional bodies will work together to develop apprenticeship, undergraduate and Master’s programmes.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) to an audience of world leaders, senior representatives of global businesses, celebrities and journalists, Mrs May issued a call to understand the concerns of those who already have their own job skills but are unsure whether such roles will exist in years to come. The Institute of Coding will be focused on training and re-training, equipping people of all ages with the required digital skills.

Last year the Government proposed extra spending in maths, digital and technical education within its Industrial Strategy White Paper: Building a Britain fit for the future to address a skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). With £20M from Government, via the Higher Funding Education Council For England (HEFCE), and £20M+ of matched funding, it is being seen as an innovative collaboration in response to the digital skills gap in the UK.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills is essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design.

“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most. As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”

The Institute’s vision is to enhance the education and employability of every IoC learner, and ensure that employers and individuals across the UK can access the skills they need to compete in the global digital economy.

The School of Business, Economics and Informatics has already taken great steps forward in this area. These include offering degree-level apprenticeships such as the BSc Digital and Technology Solutions apprenticeship, aligned to the Digital and Technology Solutions Professional (Software Developer specialism). The Department of Computer Science and Information Systems offers a range of courses including postgraduate programmes in Computer Science, Data Science, and Information Technology for graduates of subjects other than computing who are seeking to enter these new careers.

Professor Philip Powell, Pro-Vice-Master (Enterprise and Innovation) and Executive Dean, School of Business, Economics and Informatics, said: “In the global digital economy, students and graduates will experience a variety of work types – as employee, as entrepreneur and as employer. They will have to manage their ‘portfolio’ careers in a different way and need a skill set that is entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial. Birkbeck will use our expertise in preparing students for this challenge, having pioneered a portfolio education, to the benefit of the IoC.

“The Institute will work with outreach and community groups, schools and FE colleges to encourage a larger number of currently under-represented groups into digital education. One early focus will be on increasing the number of women choosing to work in the digital sector and on support for those returning to work. Birkbeck has demonstrated the value of co-created programmes to support such initiatives – for example, the UpSkill:Tech programme, developed in partnership with the J.P. Morgan Foundation, has attracted nearly 3000 students to register by providing events delivered by employers on topics ranging from ‘Bots and Machine Learning’ to ‘Royal Mail and Data Science’. The programme works with CodeFirstGirls to provide short courses for female students seeking to develop their coding skills.

“To plug the digital skills gap described in the Shadbolt and Wakeham reviews will require determined collaboration between education providers, industry, policy makers and society. The Institute of Coding demonstrates such a commitment from the individual members of the consortium to deliver even greater impact as a whole.”

Julie Mercer, Global Industry Lead for education at Deloitte, said: “We are delighted to support this significant investment in the development of digital skills to prepare the next generation for the workplace of the future. Technology is fundamentally changing the nature of work, disrupting industries and career paths and putting a premium on different skill sets. This requires new thinking from industry, government, educators and society. We are already seeing the demand for digital skills from our clients and as a major employer. We welcome this announcement and look forward to reimagining how we can power-up the economy in partnership with colleagues at Birkbeck and Bath universities.”

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