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Nick Hill

Government unveils plan to tackle UK digital skills gap wth new £20m Institute of Coding

The government is tackling the UK’s digital skills gap by launching a new £20m Institute of Coding - a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about how the Institute of Coding, a key part of the government’s aim to drive up digital skills through the Industrial Strategy, will ensure the future of the next crop of digital specialists.

The consortium is formed of businesses including IBM, Cisco, BT and Microsoft, SMEs, 25 universities, and professional bodies such as the British Computer Society and CREST.

The 25 universities involved, led by the University of Bath, range from sector leaders in business and computer science (UCL and Newcastle University) to experts in arts and design (University of the Arts) to specialists in widening participation and outreach (Open University and Birkbeck, University of London).

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “A world-class pipeline of digital skills are essential to the UK’s ability to shape our future. By working together, universities, employers and industry leaders can help graduates build the right skills, in fields from cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to industrial design.

“The Institute of Coding will play a central role in this. Employers will have a tangible input to the curriculum, working hand-in-hand with universities to develop specialist skills in areas where they are needed most. As we have outlined in the Industrial Strategy, this is part of our ambition to embrace technological change and give us a more competitive edge in the future.”

The Prime Minister also spoke about the £10m investment in free and subsidised training courses to help adults retrain and learn new skills.

Launched as part of the Industrial Strategy, the pilot programmes, located in Leeds, Devon and Somerset, Lincolnshire, Stoke-on-Trent and the West Midlands, will test how to reach out and support people with the cost of retraining. The government has also invested £30m to test the use of artificial intelligence and edtech in online digital skills courses.

The government’s £20m investment will be matched by a further £20m from industry, including in-kind contributions such as training and equipment.

The Institute of Coding is centred around five core themes; University learners (led by the Open University); the digital workforce (led by Aston University); Digitalising the professions (led by Coventry University); widening participation (led by Queen Mary University of London) and knowledge sharing and sustainability (led by the University of Bath).

Dr Rachid Hourizi, director of the Institute of Coding, said: “The strength of the Institute of Coding lies in the fact that it brings together educators, employers and outreach groups to co-develop digital skills education at undergraduate and masters level for learners in universities, at work and in previously under-supported groups across the country.

“In addition, we’ll work with our partners to target underrepresented talent through outreach activities, tailored and inclusive curricula, flexible delivery and removal of barriers to working in the industry.”

BT, among others, will provide staff and training for the Institute of Coding’s undergraduate and masters programmes.

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