Businesses criticised for taking 'no real action to improve diversity'

The education minister has told businesses to act as it is revealed that only three percent of women make up the average computing and IT sector engineering workforce, despite increasing demand for talent.

The UK needs to find 87,000 new engineers every year for the next decade to plug the demand gap, research by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) has found.

Despite this, the number of women engineers has not increased since 2008.

Nigel Fine, IET chief executive, said: “Now is the time to act...Promoting engineering to women is particularly important given how few currently work as engineers, so it’s disappointing to see that so many employers are taking no real action to improve diversity.

"They need to take urgent steps to improve recruitment and retention of women, for example by promoting flexible and part time working, together with planned routes of progression that can accommodate career breaks.

“There also needs to be deeper engagement between employers and the education system to produce a talent pipeline that can sustain a thriving UK economy. Employers, educators, government and professional institutions like the IET need to focus on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.”

Technology employers including Accenture, Atos, BT, BBC, Capgemini, Cisco, Fujitsu, IBM, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Mail and Telefonica representatives met with education minister Nick Gibb on Monday evening to discuss their commitment to tackling the imbalance in technology education and careers.

Gibb said that the lack of women would have a lasting effect on the UK’s industries if it is to compete with the European countries that have significantly better gender diversity figures.

Research by e-skills UK revealed that with a 16 percent female technology workforce, the UK lags behind Greece (23 percent), Spain (23 percent) and Finland (23 percent).

He said: “If the UK is to compete on a global scale we want more young people leaving school with the ability to make technology work for them. One simple way to do that is to use all of the talent at our disposal and encourage more girls to study these subjects.”

In September schools will have to teach children aged five to 16 computer science courses that focus on coding, algorithms and how computers function, as opposed to the traditional ICT syllabus which taught use of applications like Microsoft Excel and Word.

But the government's curriculum shift has been criticised due to lack of training for teachers who are inadequately trained to teach complex computer theory. Several UK businesses have offered classrooms coding software and training resources to plug the funding gap.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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