University Graduates Alone Won’t Solve IT Skills Crisis: Makers Academy

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Academy founder Robert Johnson thinks high-quality private education could rescue the UK IT sector

Universities alone will not be able to produce sufficiently skilled people to fill existing vacancies in the IT sector. That’s according to Robert Johnson, the co-founder of Makers Academy – a start-up that aspires to turn coding enthusiasts into fully-fledged web developers in just 10 weeks.

The course is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to compete with traditional university degrees. “In 25-30 years from now, universities as we know them now will no longer exist. They might survive as research institutions but, for education purposes, they don’t make sense. Four years and £60,000 in order to get a degree that gives you a 50 percent chance to land a job?” Johnson told TechWeekEurope.

Branding education

The US-born entrepreneur thinks that, in a world where higher education can be accessed for free online, the biggest challenge lies in providing students with practical skills necessary in the workplace.

According to the Makers Academy, over the last few years the average number of university students studying computer sciences in the UK has increased by one percent, while the number of jobs to be filled in the IT industry has increased by 21 percent.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office warned that if the number of applicants for ICT courses doesn’t increase, it could take “up to 20 years” to fill the skills gap in the cyber security field. European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes recently highlighted the ICT skills gap as an major pan-European issue.

“Many university graduates lack practical experience. They have a lot of theoretical knowledge, but computer science degrees aren’t preparing people for real work. There’s this gap of a few weeks, sometimes a couple of months, when the employer takes that graduate and tries to turn the stuff they have learned into practice,” claimed Johnson.

“But if you are going to be doing certain types of programming, like web development, you don’t necessarily need that computer science background. You just need experience. And that’s what we are trying to do at Makers Academy,” he said

Makers Academy is a business. Its courses cost £5,000 and only the top 10 percent of applicants get accepted into the programme. At the end of the intensive 10-week course, ‘graduates’ are introduced to 45 of London’s top technology companies looking to hire entry level developers.

£5,000 may sound like a sizeable investment but, according to Johnson, the benefits of the programme are well worth the cost. He says that an average salary for recent graduates is around £20,000 per year, and an entry-level developer salary is around £35,000.

This first appeared on TechWeekEurope UK. Read the whole story here.