Coding is set to become a core part of the learning experience at Luton’s Barnfield College – a £25m new build, part of West Herts College Group, that has been under construction since January this year.
Plans for the college’s coding and digital zone have been disclosed this month, forming part of Barnfield’s commitment to equipping the future workforce with sought-after digital skills – a timely offering given growing reports of the nation’s enduring digital divide.
The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) injected £4.75m last year into the high-tech digital facility via its Getting Building Fund (GBF) – a financial stream established to facilitate the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
“Demand for coders in the UK is huge and continues to grow and our new Barnfield College campus is set to play a fundamental role in enabling the delivery of a modern curriculum targeting local skills and labour market priorities” – Gill Wordan, West Herts College
“Coding is a national priority and key to our area’s economic growth,” said Gill Wordan, principal and CEO of Watford-based West Herts College. “Demand for coders in the UK is huge and continues to grow and our new Barnfield College campus is set to play a fundamental role in enabling the delivery of a modern curriculum targeting local skills and labour market priorities.”
The Digital Skills in the UK Economy joint report from BIS and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2016 described the nation’s shortage of “suitable digital skills” as a “key bottleneck for industry and linked to one in five of all vacancies” – a problem that’s likely to have been exacerbated by the digital transition accelerated by COVID-19.
Research by the Industrial Strategy Council, an independent advisory group led by Andy Haldane – chief economist at the Bank of England – found that the most widespread under-skilling is likely to be in basic digital expertise, with up to two-thirds of the workforce facing a lack of the necessary skills to some extent, and 5m workers potentially being acutely under-skilled in basic digital capabilities by 2030.
Literacy in coding and other digital disciplines is highly valued among most employers today, with the rapidly evolving ‘remote revolution’ altering work patterns, potentially for good, making skills like programming more crucial than ever.
The new four storey Barnfield College coding and digital centre – which will include a brand-new gaming studio – has been designed to help bridge the region’s technological skills gap. The facility will align its curriculum with the needs of local employers and is designed to prepare graduates for careers in such fields as data analysis and design, digital marketing, cybersecurity, and customer relationship management.
Partnerships with local employers, notably those associated with the Airport Enterprise Zone, will ensure programmes serve demand for specific skills and apprenticeships.