Computing A-Level Numbers Jump but Experts Demand More

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The number of UK students studying computing at A-level increased significantly this year, but experts have warned that more needs to be done to address skills gaps in areas like cybersecurity.

It was A-level results day in the UK on Thursday, when hundreds of thousands of teenagers wait to see if they have the grades they need to get into the university of their choice.

The government claimed the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) A-levels remained “stable" in 2016.

The number of those taking the ICT A-level, currently being phased out in favor of a new computing course, dropped by over 3,000 from the previous year.

However, the government trumpeted a 16% increase in those taking computing.

But experts told Infosecurity that even the uptick in interest would have little immediate impact on the skills crisis facing IT and cybersecurity.

David Lozdan, head of public sector at UK cloud services firm Exponential-e, claimed the limited talent pool would send wages rocketing and hold businesses back from innovating their way to success.

“This can be seen in many digital skills gap sectors, a key one currently being cybersecurity - as demand in cyber security experts looks to outweigh applicants, we need to continue to encourage more students to cultivate their interest towards STEM subjects,” he argued.

“We urgently need the government to look at how we can develop a national curriculum that ensures school leavers are prepared for industries where a skills gap still exists. The next generation of work needs to be fit for business purpose, especially in the digital age.”

Lozdan added that it is not only schools but universities and local businesses which need to collaborate to ensure young people get the best training to prepare them for work in certain niche sectors.

“In the workplace, this could mean running training academies that foster talent, offering the knowledge and skills necessary to enable people to achieve their best in high-growth industries like cybersecurity,” he continued.

“For those businesses that are brave enough to invest, providing appropriate training will not only help to close growing skills gaps in cybersecurity, but it will have an immediate commercial impact.”

It should also be noted that, despite the encouraging take-up of the subject, fewer than 20% of students received an A or A* grade in computing this year.

To underline the problem of skills shortages and gaps, the number of vacancies for IT roles in the UK grew 15% from June to July, with cybersecurity particularly in demand, according to new stats from the Robert Walters UK Jobs Index.

There was a 70% year-on-year increase in advertised vacancies for roles requiring cybersecurity skills in the second quarter, to a total of 1,617 jobs, according to the UK IT Jobs Watch issued by jobs site Dice.

Some 62% of respondents to the ISC2 Global Information Security Workforce Study last year claimed that their organization has too few information security professionals – up from 56% in 2013.

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