Institute of Coding launches £2.3m Future Projects Fund to boost digital skills

powering digital skills

The Institute of Coding (IoC) is inviting groups to apply for a portion of a 2.3 million funding initiative aimed at narrowing the digital skills gap.

The 20 million government-backed group will allocate funding to between five and ten groups of organisations who can present a clear programme to improve access to digital skills, and boost graduate employability and outcomes.

These collectives, or groups, are invited to bid for the Future Projects Fund so long as they include at least one university or college with an existing computer science or IT course, and at least one industry partner. Beyond that, bidding groups could also include other higher education providers, employers, and even outreach organisations.

"Gaining access to high quality education and training is absolutely critical to tackling the UK's digital skills shortfall," said the IoC's director Dr Rachid Hourizi.

"The IoC's new fund will enable academic institutions and industry organisations to work together, developing cutting edge education to promote digital excellence and improve the technical skills for a new generation of workers.

"This initiative is the latest in a wide array of activity from the IoC to launch new services and spread digital skills across the country."

Successful groups will focus on innovative approaches to digital skills education for fields in which the wider industry faces shortages, while showing evidence the programme will improve student and graduate employability.

The plans must also demonstrate universities have engaged with employers to design curriculums around the industry - and that female students, or those from ethnic minority backgrounds, are being actively encouraged to take up digital skills.

"This new fund provides an exciting opportunity for the creation of high quality STEM courses for the next generation of graduates," said FDM COO and chair of the IoC's industry advisory board Sheila Flavell.

"At a time when the UK's digital industry is playing such a vital role in economic growth and job creation, it's absolutely critical that we extend access to technical education to as many young people as possible, from all walks of life."

The IoC, first announced by the prime minister earlier this year, is a publicly-funded conglomerate bringing together more than 60 organisations and 25 universities to attempt to close the skills shortage the UK faces.

The announcement marks the IoC's first major initiative since the organisation, jointly funded by industry sponsors and the higher education regulator Office for Students (OfS), officially launched in June.

Speaking at its launch, Dr Hourizi told IT Pro that as well as hiring from abroad or relying on young university graduates to fill gaps, companies must look inwardly as to how they can reskill or retrain their existing workforce.

Although predominantly tied with higher education, the IoC says it is committed to imparting skills onto the wider population, especially those entering education in later life, not to mention boosting access for women and ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, the UK's skills shortage is becoming increasingly urgent, with a recorded fall in the number of students taking up STEM subjects at university ahead of the upcoming academic year.

Newly-published research also suggested Brexit will exacerbate the crisis, with an analysis of 41 million online job adverts showing the top five skill groups the UK most-needs include data engineering, IT security, market research, app development and web development.

Collectives can bid for a slice of the IoC's 2.3 million Future Projects Fund, which is part of the government's initial 20 million investment, until 26 November, with the money set to be allocated to successful groups between 31 January 2019 and 31 January 2020.

The IoC will also be holding town hall Q&A-style meetings, in partnership with Council for Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), in London on 5 September, and Manchester on 16 October to answer questions about its initiative.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.