Interview with Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding

For CTO’s and business leaders, the skills shortage in tech is a sore subject which is wreaking havoc across organisations in the UK, impacting both their digital transformation efforts and their bottom-lines.

A recent study found that UK businesses are spending £1.5 billion a year in recruitment, temporary staffing, inflated salaries and additional training. While, according to the Shadbolt review, a government-commissioned report, by 2022 some 518,000 additional workers will be needed to fill roles in digital industries – this is three times the number of computer science graduates produced in the past ten years.

At the same time, 11.7% of UK computer science graduates spend six months unemployed after completing their degrees.

Filling the gap

These are the statistics that Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding, spoke about with Information Age, last month, following their recent launch. For Hourizi, they are also the statistics that the Institute of Coding is aiming to reverse.

Hourizi explained: “We’re a collection of educators and industry leaders looking to solve the disconnect between higher education and we are looking to create specific skills for work and employment.”

>See also: Key employer challenges for 2018 amid the digital skills crisis

The Institute of Coding is identified in the UK Government’s latest Industrial Strategy document and aims to also attract more people from underrepresented groups into the sector.

With funding from the Government’s Higher Education Funding Council for England and elsewhere the IoC, led by the University of Bath, will bring together a consortium of more than 60 universities, national and international corporations, SMEs, industry groups, and experts in non-traditional learning professional bodies.

Education must meet demand

As the UK faces a digital skills gap, as described in the Shadbolt review, for Hourizi, when one considers the unemployment rate among computer graduates, the disconnect between university degrees and the workplace is a factor that we must not ignore.

Hourizi said: “From an employer’s side, it means they are not getting the right people to drive their business forward, and from an individual’s point of view, it means they are not reaching the best type of career available to them.”

>See also: Closing the skills gap: Developing the next generation of STEM talent

The Institute will work alongside various educational institutes from both traditional universities and education providers like Birkbeck, FutureLearn and the Open University to deliver a range of industry-accredited courses that incorporate more practical skills required from the digital economy.

“I think the introduction of cutting-edge subjects is paramount. We must make sure we are teaching people skills in the latest fields, such as AI, machine learning and other innovations over the horizon.”

“Ultimately, learners benefit because the skills they’re being taught are up-to-date.”

Why Diversity matters in the skills gap in tech

Another core aim for the Institute is to champion diversity in the tech space. For Hourizi, this aim is motivated by two factors: morally and pragmatically.

For Hourizi, the moral factor is self-evident, and he believes everybody, no matter their gender or ethnicity, deserves the opportunity to develop their digital skills set.

>See also: Women necessary in closing cyber security skills gap

Speaking pragmatically, Hourizi said: “When we look at the negative effects that the digital skills gap is having, it makes no sense to look to only half the population for help.”

“We want to make sure to reach all of the best people, not just some of them.”

“Increasing diversity will help employers going forward; this is why we are interested in looking at what the barriers are to education.”

>See also: Diversity targets: Challenge your assumptions, widen your teams

“For example, imagine a person who wishes to pursue a career in tech already works a full-time job, naturally, taking three years out of work is unrealistic. This is why we are working with educators to figure out how these sorts of people could get the skills they need, maybe that’s evening classes or online learning.”

“This is where the Institute of Coding comes in; the idea is that we will join in the conversation and help enable new courses to be delivered in new ways.”

How the IoC can help CTOs and business leaders

As UK business leaders cry out for employees with the latest IT skills, the IoC are positioning themselves between companies and educators to develop the much needed technical capabilities of workers.

For Hourizi, a dialogue between all these parties makes for a virtuous circle. However, just talking is not enough, Hourizi believes this is why the IoC is so essential, as they will be able to encourage action.

He added: “If a CTO’s is reading this article, we want them to get in touch, we want to learn about what has been hard for them up to this point, whether it’s identifying where skills can be found or developed.”

>See also: The value of gender diversity is seen as critical to business success

“There are good pockets of excellence around the country, and we may be able to help them find what they’re looking for.”

“We have a group of educators that are keen to develop new courses, so if you’re a CTO of a company and you just can’t get the kind of educated staff you need, or there are soft skills that are not being developed, we are enthusiastic to hear about how we can help.”

“We have ideas about what is holding some people back, but ultimately we need to hear from CTOs and learn from them.”

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future