UK needs comp sci grads, so why isn't it hiring them?

Report blames unis for crappy coursework

Computer science degrees need to have a clearer focus on making grads more employable. In fact, according to a report into the low employment rates among students, institutions offering comp-sci courses are so terrible at it that employers look to holders of other degrees to fill the comp-sci-shaped hole.

Unemployment among CS graduates is currently running at 11.7 per cent, according to the Shadbolt Review of Computer Sciences Degree Accreditation and Graduate Employability (PDF).

That is an improvement from 2008/9, when unemployment levels were as high as 18 per cent some six months after completing computer science courses. However, it is still higher than the STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) average, of 8.4 per cent.

This is despite a strong demand for computer science skills, with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills predicting that by 2022, some 518,000 additional workers will be needed for the "digital economy".

The review aimed to gain a clearer understanding of the reasons why graduates from Computer Sciences undergrad courses appear to suffer from poor employment outcomes relative to graduates from other STEM disciplines.

Accreditation has been one of the focusses of the review, and it concerned itself specifically with the accreditation of degree programmes, said the report.

"It would benefit all stakeholders, including graduates, if employment outcomes, and employability, were to become a more central part of accrediting a degree programme," said the report.

It added: "We have also been aware of anecdotal evidence within the computer science community that graduates from other STEM disciplines are helping to fill the gaps left by the apparent lack of suitably skilled Computer Sciences graduates.

"Additionally, the review has heard evidence to suggest that many Computer Sciences graduates are often in possession of the soft skills that they require to operate effectively in the jobs market, but that a number of them struggle to articulate their skill set to employers."

In addition, employers in some areas of the economy have previously reported that some STEM graduates need to be better prepared for work with skills that meet the needs of employers.

According to the research one-quarter of Computer Sciences grads are employed in London. However, not everyone is tied to the Big Smoke: notable strongholds include the East Midlands, Manchester and Leeds, it said. ®

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