Universities Should Help Bridge The Skills Gap

IT Curriculum

Talking about a lack of jobs for graduates is hardly new, but contrary to popular belief, the problem isn’t always about the shortage of suitable jobs. Sometimes it’s the value of the qualifications that graduates are leaving university with.

While it would be harsh to say that the UK Government isn’t making steps in the right direction, simply changing the current IT curriculum will mean that graduates will still struggle to find jobs unless universities update their courses to cater for a modern businesses needs.

My company is finding that graduates are coming to us with good degrees – but without any of the core skills we need. There’s a real skills gap between the academic and corporate worlds.

Building bridges

The academic world has often lagged behind the workplace, but the gap in skills is rarely this pronounced. It seems students are being taught skills based on technology that’s either no longer in use or on the way out.

As a specialist in middleware technology based on Oracle WebCenter, it’s not that we’re expecting people to already be trained in WebCenter specifically, but many graduates studying IT courses are leaving university without a suitable levels of skills in advanced Web development – something that is fundamental to my company and the work of hundreds of other companies.

I believe this lack of basic skills and technical know-how is really holding back UK graduates and forcing companies to look elsewhere. With reliable remote-working systems in place and companies evolving around a distributed workforce, it’s no longer inconceivable to hire people from all corners of the world in order to find the right skills.

In the past we’ve had to recruit people from outside of the UK as a result of this skills gap – most recently two exceptionally talented Web developers from Belgium. In some cases it seems other countries have already realised the problem and as a result are producing graduates with the right skills.

It all starts with school

For the last year I’ve been visiting secondary schools across the UK as part of the WorkingKnowledge group. The purpose of these visits is to speak to pupils about working in the IT industry and the skills they’ll require. As the group’s long waiting list testifies there’s a huge demand for sessions like this.

The recent changes to the IT curriculum are great news for our industry, children understanding how computers work and how programs are put together is fantastic and much better than a generation taught how to distinguish a mouse from a monitor and how to add a new slide in PowerPoint. Yet these changes need to happen at the higher levels of education as well.

Previously we’ve attempted to start a graduate program for UK students but the government is too restrictive on the amount of input we could have had to our potential employees curriculum. For this reason we were forced to look abroad for new recruits.

So what needs to be done?

We need to start inspiring and empowering UK graduates and ensure their qualifications set them up for life. This isn’t a big ask or a dramatic change and we’re more than happy to work alongside universities to make it happen. It just needs to happen quickly before the UK is once again left behind. This is such a growth industry and we’re seeing strong demand from our customers so there’s a great opportunity for those with the right skills, but universities need to step up and act now.

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Vikram Setia

Vikram Setia is the co-founder and Commercial Director of infoMENTUM, the UK’s only dedicated UK Information Management consultancy holding both Oracle Enterprise Content Management and WebCenter specialisations. Prior to founding infoMENTUM Vikram spent over 15 years experience working as an Information Management consultant for a range of large organisations. Specialising in information management, enterprise search and Ontologies and Semantic Web, Vikram is an expert in information communication technology working across a range of verticals markets.