A recent report on the employment prospects of computer science graduates in Scotland gives a slightly confusing view of the fantastic employment opportunities that exist in the sector.
Be-It Resourcing’s research suggested that almost a third of IT graduates are dropping out of the sector and failing to convert their qualifications into jobs, with less than half (43%) believing their university course was a good preparation for work.
In fact, universities in Scotland find over 88% of their computer science graduates go into meaningful employment, (source : Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance) although not just within the sector.
There is a competing demand from other industries for our skilled graduates, for example from financial services or global consultancy firms and so it is unsurprising that the recent survey showed 32% of students do not work directly in IT/computing.
Scotland’s expanding tech sector has significant pent up demand for computing science students and is looking for a wide range of technology skills, from software development to cyber security, data science to telecommunications expertise. With over 12,000 vacancies a year the industry provides fantastic career opportunities, and our colleges and universities are recognised for the quality of the courses they provide.
A major UK wide report chaired by Professor Nigel Shadbolt in 2016 specifically looked at the challenges around the employability of CS students which has energised many of the universities to address some of the problems CS and particularly IT students were facing, and we know the Heads of Computing in Scotland have been working together on this.
ScotlandIS has developed the Digital Skills Partnership initiative, aimed at ensuring that the computing science curriculum is more aligned to industry’s changing skills requirement. The project, now into its second year, brings together industry, university and college lecturers to share current industry practices to bring curriculum up to date, and also to help develop new curriculum materials, an example being the development of new cyber security courses.
Available to students across all Scotland’s universities and Colleges ePlacement Scotland helps students gain real industry experience before they graduate, with an emphasis on increasing their employability. All the evidence suggests that students who undertake placements find full time roles more quickly as industry really values the experience they have gained, and we absolutely endorse the suggestion that all students studying a technology related subject should complete a placement.
We also run an industry placement programme in partnership with Edinburgh Napier – ePlacement Scotland. Both these initiatives have benefited from active government support.
However, this survey shows we cannot be complacent and highlights that there continue to be challenges for our industry to overcome to meet the skills needs of the sector. The technology sector is continually expanding and is a major growth opportunity for the Scottish economy, so we have to get this right.
Polly Purvis OBE is CEO of ScotlandIS, the membership and cluster management organisation for Scotland’s digital technologies industry