UK employers still reluctant to hire recent CompSci grads

Even social studies graduates have better job prospects

Computer science graduates continue to top the UK's higher education unemployment rankings, according to the latest figures compiled by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Ten per cent of computer science graduates failed to find a job six months after graduation in the academic year 2014/2015 - a figure higher than students who had studied Mass Communications and documentation, Physical sciences, or Engineering and technology (all 7.7 per cent).

But the percentage is improving, albeit slowly. Last year's statistics by HESA revealed 11.3 per cent of computer science graduates in 2013/2014 were unemployed.

In 2008/2009 - admittedly a year of recession - the figure was around 18 per cent, according to a recent report, Shadbolt Review of Computer Sciences Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability, by Nigel Shadbolt, Professorial Research Fellow in Computer Science at the University of Oxford.

A report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills published in May 2016 estimates that there will be an additional 518,000 "digital" jobs by 2022 - three times the number of computer science graduates produced in the past ten years.

Not all digital jobs will be taken by computer science graduates, but it is reasonable to infer that the number of job openings for their skills is rising.

Despite more positions available, however, Shadbolt’s report said that “many employers talk of on-going skills shortages in these digital professions”.

The skills gap could be down to the “fast-changing” computer science landscape. Trends in technology often change as emerging areas such as AI and cloud computing grow in popularity.

Shadbolt recognised that a significant challenge was for computer science courses to “provide agile and relevant content while securing a common core of essential knowledge”.

Another recommendation Shadbolt made was for students to develop softer skills, such as teamwork and interpersonal skills, alongside technical expertise.

Stronger links between higher education and industry must also be forged. SMEs should be supported so that they can provide more work experience for students as well as identifying future skills needed. ®

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