Graduates with degrees that have a technological focus such as IT and engineering continue to be in high demand in the UK, with the IT sector set to add over 500,000 new jobs by 2017 and the engineering sector set to create 2 million jobs by 2020. The gap between traditional degrees and technology focused degrees is evidently widening in terms of the opportunities available for graduates, but the question is, why?
A contributing factor is the rise of the digital economy, with firms looking for ways to innovate and respond to the changes technology has brought. Banks for example are now employing IT graduates to help with digital services such as online banking to improve their customer relations. As a result, there has been a surge in demand for those IT graduates who have programming knowledge as businesses need people who can build websites, process data, use the web for digital marketing opportunities and provide cyber security solutions among other things.
In fact, those who have knowledge of programming languages such as Java, HTML and CSS can expect to receive a starting salary in the region £30,000 once they have graduated. Throughout the sector, starting salaries can be as much as £12,000 a year more than the average first job salary for graduates, which is estimated to range from £18,000 to £22,000 – such is the demand.
The fact that the most searched for skill by employers on the Internet is Java illustrates the enormous demand for graduates with a technological background today, with specialist IT companies looking to take on new recruits as well as organisations in sectors such as finance, law and retail who have built in-house IT teams in order to adapt to the digital economy.
Research by Tech Partnership estimated that 134,000 new tech specialists are needed in the UK every year, and with the surge in electronic records and wireless technology, the demand is unlikely to decrease any time soon – especially when 9 in 10 UK IT firms suffer from staff shortages.
Much like IT, engineering graduates are taking advantage of a marketplace where there is a demand for their skills right now. After coming to a halt during the recession, the manufacturing sector has picked up again in recent years with the government and private enterprises investing in infrastructure projects such as building new roads, environmental facilities and offices.
With projects such as these engineers are required to work with scientists to form technological solutions. To do this they will often use specialist software such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) which all engineering courses now teach, with computers now playing an imperative role in a sector which has also been affected by the digital economy.
EngineeringUK said in a study recently that companies within the industry expect to have 2.74 million job openings by 2020 – 1.86 million of which will require a specialist engineering background. In fact, the demand for engineers in the UK is so great that it outweighs the supply – as only 46,000 British students graduate in engineering each year.
One of the consequences of this is that organisations are being forced to look for graduates overseas which has driven the average starting salary in engineering up to £25,762.
It is fair to say that IT and engineering graduates are in demand more than ever before because they have a skillset that is highly sought after in today’s digital economy – which is providing opportunities for graduates in both degree disciplines.
IT and engineering courses are preparing students for the marketplace by teaching specific skills such as Java, CSS, CAD and CAM that are needed for the technological world we live in today – in contrast to many traditional degrees that are failing to provide students with the necessary skills for employment.