UCAS figures show more over-35s are retraining in tech in UK

The UK tech sector is continuing to change as the number of female applications to IT courses has increased by 82% over the last decade

A new analysis of UCAS data has found the tech industry is seeing a surge in interest from those looking to move into the sector, as the number of over-35s retraining in computer science courses has risen by 19 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

Plus, IT courses at UK universities have seen a record number of women applicants in the latest annual data. Over the last decade, the number of women applying to IT courses has increased by 82 per cent.

Over the last decade, male applications to computer science courses rose by 52 per cent in the UK. Since 2019, the increase in male applicants stands at just two per cent compared to a 10 per cent increase in women applying to computer science roles.

The data, sourced from UCAS and collated by IT security solutions providers Cheeky Munkey, shows the numbers of IT and computer science course applicants across UK universities. The data analysis sought to identify the increasing diversity of demographics entering the UK tech industry, taking into account the specific courses being applied for, as well as the age and gender of the applicants.

The news comes as figures from the Office for National Statistics* showed that the tech industry was the third-fastest growing sector for job growth in the UK between July and September 2021, with women representing 71 per cent of professionals placed during this growth.

Diversity in the tech industry — more still to be done

Overall, the UK is seeing a growing surge in applicants studying to enter the tech industry — a 57 per cent increase compared to a decade ago. With the pandemic highlighting the importance of reliable, efficient and secure technological solutions for the public and private sector, it’s crucial that the UK is able to produce graduate tech talent to serve the growing need.

Analysing the most recent data, artificial intelligence courses have the highest proportion of women of all computer science courses, although the figure is only just over one in five (21%). Software engineering courses have seen the largest increase in the share of women applying –  just eight per cent of applicants were women in 2010, this rose to 14 per cent in 2020, a 66 per cent increase.

It’s clear that there’s still much to be done to encourage women into tech. Computer science courses attracted 24,020 women applicants in 2021, compared to 117,295 male applicants. This equates to just 17% of applicants being women, although it is higher than the 13 per cent figure in 2013 – the lowest point in the last decade.

Graham Lane, Director of Cheeky Munkey, says: “Demand for IT professionals is as strong as ever, especially with disciplines like artificial intelligence set to grow rapidly in the coming years. Failure to meet demand, by shutting certain groups out, and the UK could be left behind in an industry that’s crucial to the economy.

“The sector can only benefit from more perspectives and different experiences, and employers get much greater choice when it comes to finding the best people for each role. 

“Graduates provide fresh thinking and come to businesses equipped with the latest in IT theory. The more graduates – no matter their age or gender – entering the industry, the better the pool of talent available.”

Danielle Keegan, Head of Permanent Recruitment at VIQU: “Universities are now very aware of the lack of women in technology and are actively putting initiatives in place to attract women to study tech-focused courses. [According to] a PwC UK research report titled ‘Women in Tech – Time to Close the Gender Gap’ 78% of students could not name a famous female working in tech. I believe companies need to be actively working with schools and universities in order to highlight the achievements and work of women in tech. 

“Companies need to implement a solid D&I strategy [and] focus on creating a recruitment strategy that removes unconscious bias from the process [to help further encourage women to apply to business IT roles]. I think that the more companies we see adopting recruitment processes like this, the more women we will start to see in tech workplaces and the more women and students will be encouraged to pursue a career in tech.”

Amit Kapoor, Director of Mindful Contract, a recruitment consultancy that focuses on interim resourcing for major digital transformation programmes, says: “Many employers aren’t comfortable acknowledging, let alone declaring, that they have a representation problem. Language in a job description needs to be tempered to give assurance that the workload is manageable without requiring lifestyle sacrifices. Also, consideration should be given to the fact that women tend to apply to jobs where they meet a higher percentage of the specifications stated, compared to men. Therefore, stating broad themes instead of a long list of specific requirements would work better.

“We recently launched a campaign for a banking client that had identified women as an underrepresented category. We stated this position as-is on our job advertisement, explicitly encouraging application from women. This yielded a higher-than-usual rate of applications from women.”

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