By Radek Dymacz, Head of R&D, Databarracks
According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, it is predicted that by 2022 there will be 146,000 job openings for software developers and programmers, commanding an average yearly salary of £38,000. Keen to ensure that today’s generation of school leavers are equipped with the necessary digital skills needed to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s digital world, the government is championing the adoption of STEM skills for students.
We are already seeing some radical changes being made to the UK curriculum, not least replacing “ICT” with “Computing”. By age five, children will be learning about algorithms, and by age fourteen students will be using a least two different programming languages. By learning the basics at such a young age, it sets the next wave of school leavers up for success in the changing technology jobs market – they can apply those skills to any programming role they secure in later life. In addition, it helps to safeguard the future of the UK IT industry, which is currently severely lacking in skilled programmers, according to research from industry practitioners.
In August 2015, figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications revealed that the number of students taking GCSE Computing had more than doubled over the past 12 months, alongside increases in students taking Maths and other IT-related subjects. To ensure this trend continues it is imperative that STEM subjects remain actively supported.
We are already starting to see this with the introduction of a new computer science GCSE course, developed by the examination body OCR, which is set to bring cyber-security education to secondary school pupils in the UK. The course goes hand-in-hand with the government’s commitment to addressing the threat posed by cyber criminality, as well as ensuring that future IT leaders are receiving the necessary support and education needed to develop computational thinking from a young age.
It is critical that both government and industry practitioners continue this trend and work together to identify future technology challenges and the skills required to address them.
Mathematical skills, statistics in particular, are absolutely integral to data analytics. Data analytics lies at the core of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and is another area of IT that is rapidly growing. Machine learning is essentially applied statistics, using complex algorithms to replicate the same patterns found in the human brain, and anyone with a strong grasp of this area of mathematics will have a huge competitive advantage within the industry in the coming years.
Finally, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are both having a big influence on the skills needed to get ahead in technology. Actual physical engineering skills will be essential for the inventors and entrepreneurs of the future, as the need to build hardware becomes as important as concept creation. Traditionally these jobs have been carried out in separation, by hardware professionals or software developers but the IoT has changed this. Technologists now need to be able to get back to basics, right down to the foundational level of engineering, and be comfortable working with the like of PCBs, Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
The changing face of the IT industry means future IT professionals are going to have to demonstrate a greater range of skills in order to meet new and demanding challenges. Instilling these from a young age will equip students with a valuable and much-needed set of skills required for tomorrow’s technology roles.