Computer Science grads still finding it hard to get a job

Skills gap? What skills gap?

Computer science grads are still finding it much harder to secure jobs than their peers in other STEM subjects, with one in 10 out of work six months after uni.

Nigel Shadbolt, professorial research fellow in Computer Science at the UK's University of Oxford, told delegates at a Westminster Forum event that this figure is down from 16 per cent for 2008/9 – but it is still much higher than the aggregate figure for all STEM students – who report a current unemployment rate of six per cent.

“That is better than it used to be, but it’s still 40 per cent higher than other STEM skills, so it’s still clearly an issue,” he said. "There is no question that computer science is anything other than fundamentally central to the modern economy."

For several years, computer science graduates have topped the list of the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s unemployability rankings, despite the huge skills gap in the discipline. That is often blamed on the stereotype of computer science students as being less articulate than their peers when it comes to job interviews.

However, one of the recommendations in the The Shadbolt Review of Computer Science Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability, which is due to be published by next month, is to better understand what employers mean when they say they are not fit for the market.

"There is not enough information available on what it is employers think they want. Cloud computing, data analytics, are areas of huge demand but the feeling is there still not enough supply there," he said.

Shadbolt noted that the three broad categories of computer science, software engineer and IT do not go far enough to describe the variety of skills within the discipline.

"A career in analytics, the security and intelligence agencies, or working in an SME will have have different requirements," he said. "Some will need more entrepreneurial skills than others."

He said another recommendation of the report will be to look at ways of developing students’ interpersonal skills. "We do know there is a constant demand for soft skills and communication skills. There is an apparent belief [that institutions] are just not doing enough to equip students with those skills.”

Research from jobs search engine Adzuna, recently claimed employees in the IT industry could be underpaid by almost £15,000. It found the average advertised salary was £46,954. ®

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