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What is the Institute of Coding?

Northumbria University is a partner of the UK government’s Institute of Coding. Discover what that means and how it’s working to fill the digital skills gap.

Among the digital skills that employers most need, coding and programming are very high up the list. The UK has been suffering from a digital skills gap for a while and it’s only going to worsen if nothing is done to close it. As time goes on and technology advances, the need for coders in the workforce becomes more urgent. 

76% of businesses say that lacking digital skills are likely to affect their profitability, but it’s not just employers and the economy that need coders. Digital expertise is increasingly essential to ward off cyber threats to the UK’s national security from China and Russia

The government has recognised that if the UK is going to become and remain a leader in tech innovation, something has to be done about the shortage of digital skills, and in coding in particular. That’s where the Institute of Coding, and its partners like Northumbria University have been stepping in. 

We’ll explore what the Institute of Coding is, what it’s aiming to achieve, and what we’re doing to help fill the digital skills gap.

 

 

 

 

The Institute of Coding – supporting coding in the UK

The Institute of Coding (IoC) describes itself “a national consortium of educators, employers and outreach organisations” which exists to increase the digital skills of the workforce. It was set up by Theresa May in 2018 at the World Economic Forum to fill jobs in the tech sector, which is growing at twice the rate of any other. It is also committed to diversity and inclusion in the digital sphere, encouraging and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The government pledged £20 million from the Office for Students, which is being matched with over £20 million more in private funding. A number of higher education institutions are part of this consortium, led by the University of Bath. They are teaching people to code and campaigning to get more students onto conversion courses in artificial intelligence and data science. 

The Institute of Coding provides training courses in coding for beginners to upskill and boost  their employability. It also works with universities, and organisations such as IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, and the British Computer Society to develop coding courses. 

What is the digital skills gap? 

According to a recent report, 92% of businesses say that having digital skills is important for employees. More than a third of them feel that their workforce currently lacks the advanced digital skills necessary. 

While existing workers don’t have the tech skills businesses need to stay competitive and profitable in the growing digital age, there’s also a shortage of new talent coming into the jobs market. The gap between the demand for digital skills and the supply of those in the workforce who have those skills is growing. 

The digital skills gap is most severe in the areas of data science, with similar imbalances in web development, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. But it’s not just computer science where these sorts of tech skills are useful. Unrelated industries, from marketing to engineering, manufacturing to energy (and many other sectors) are demanding greater fluency in digital expertise. Nearly all industries will be affected by AI or data science in one way or another. 

Coding and understanding web programming languages is a huge benefit in businesses of all kinds. Whether you’re running a website or ecommerce store, interacting with your customers through an app, or designing a system to make sense of big datasets for your organisation, coding can be the solution to a lot of modern workplace problems. 

How do we fill the digital skills gap?

It’s not just up to universities to upskill the digital workforce. Secondary schools – and even primary schools – can start teaching children the basics of coding from a much younger age. In the digital world we live in, it’s natural that programming languages could be taught with the same kind of time and importance that’s put into modern languages. 

After-school clubs, national programmes or coding competitions, apprenticeships, short courses, and free online coding resources are all viable options to teach young people of the ‘digital native’ generation to code. 

However, universities do have an important part to play in training the current and next generation of employees. Besides increasing places on computer science courses and programmes in artificial intelligence and data analytics, universities can provide opportunities to teach programming languages and coding techniques even outside their computer science lectures and seminars.

That’s what the Institute of Coding is encouraging and helping to fund. So an engineering undergraduate with no prior coding experience can attend a coding workshop, or a humanities postgraduate can learn Python or Java in their spare time. 

The more of these solutions are available to students, the better prepared they’ll be to fill job vacancies with advanced digital skills and become greater assets to their employers. 

Working at laptop with coffee cup, smart phone and glasses

How Northumbria works with the Institute of Coding

As a founder member of the Institute of Coding, Northumbria University has received over £1 million from the Office for Students and contributions matched by industrial partners. 

Northumbria partnered with QA Consulting, an IT training company, to provide free ‘Teach the Nation to Code’ workshops in coding skills useful for a career in technology. Other events we have organised in conjunction with the Institute of Coding have included a mobile app development club, a website development club, and a data analytics hub. 

There are thousands of jobs in the UK ready to be filled by graduates proficient in Python, Microsoft Azure, Java, and a whole range of other programming languages. Not all these vacancies need graduates with computer science degrees, but a working knowledge of a few advanced digital skills can go a long way and really make a CV stand out. 

Northumbria has an excellent Department of Computer and Information Sciences, with a broad offering of computer science courses. These include specialised MSc pathways in artificial intelligence and data analytics which can be taken as distance learning courses, studied part-time from anywhere in the world.   

Programming languages and software taught on our online Masters include:

  • Java
  • Python
  • Pandas
  • Javascript
  • Python 3
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Oracle SQL Plus

But whether you’re interested in a computer science MSc or just want to learn to code, there are plenty of opportunities to upskill and boost your employability. 

We understand the importance of digital skills to the jobs market and the economy as a whole. As MP for Newcastle Central, Chi Onwurah, said, “we recognise that just as the trains and the steam engine drove the first industrial revolution, technology is driving this industrial revolution.” 

For more information about the Institute of Coding and what digital skills you can learn at Northumbria, email us at ioc@northumbria.ac.uk.


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