GCSE Computing Numbers Jump 76%

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The number of students taking GCSE computing rocketed by 76% over the past year, fuelling hopes that this could translate into more UK school leavers pursuing careers in cybersecurity.

In total, entry numbers for the course jumped from around 35,500 in 2015 to 62,500 this year.

Kaspersky Lab UK & Ireland general manager, Kirill Slavin, argued that the industry is likely to see skills gaps reach critical levels in the next 5-10 years.

“The news today suggests that plugging this gap is not beyond reach. In fact, recent Kaspersky Lab research tells us that a large number of these future computer science graduates will indeed investigate careers in cybersecurity,” he explained.

"According to the research, 27% of young people are currently considering a future role in cybersecurity, with 47% of these saying it’s because they would like to put their increasing IT skills to good use.”

However, a bigger problem is the lack of entry-level IT jobs on offer. The majority (72%) of firms Kaspersky Lab spoke to said they promote from within and provide on-the-job training.

Another problem is that the quality of students taking GCSE computing courses appears to be dropping.

Although there was a decline across the board, it was particularly pronounced in computing, where the number of A*-C results fell by 4.7%.

Bhuwan Kaushik, CEO of UK-based Spectromax, described the results as “woeful.”

“As the IT skills gap continues to grow worldwide, we need to make sure the UK doesn’t get left behind. Enthusing students to learn computing and educating them effectively will be a huge step towards making this happen long term. There’s simply no quick fix,” he argued.

“We also need more IT programs outside of school and university, and better opportunities for on the job IT training too. This is especially important post-Brexit, as we will no longer be able to rely on a steady stream of IT talent coming into Britain from elsewhere in Europe.”

There are alternatives to formal courses, of course, with many developers self-taught.

“Online hubs of learning and open source communities are thriving, because coding in particular lends itself to an online, collaborative learning model,” argued Kakul Srivastava, VP of product management at GitHub.

“To harness digital skills in the future, the tech industry should avoid placing too much emphasis on formal qualifications, and look instead to the rich talent pools that exist online.”

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