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In UK, Computer Science Graduates the Least Employable 349

Posted by timothy
from the double-major-next-time dept.
Rogerborg writes "The BBC reports that in the UK, computer science graduates are now the least employable of students leaving with a degree, 17% of them being unable to find a job within six months of graduation. Unsurprisingly, medics, educators and lawyers do better, but even much mocked communications and creative arts graduates are finding work more easily."
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In UK, Computer Science Graduates the Least Employable

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  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:43AM (#32770408) Journal

    I'm in the UK, have a computer science degree (two, actually), and have never really looked for a job. I've had two books published (with a third coming out soon), and have no shortage of consulting work. It's the summer (the first one we've had in three years) and so I spend a lot of time sitting outside relaxing. Not sure why I'd want a job - I'd earn less, have to sit in an office, and have someone else telling me when I had to do work (instead of when I had to have done work by).

    That said, I wouldn't employ half of the people on my undergraduate degree course to change a lightbulb, unless someone else was supervising them.

  • Stats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ilovegeorgebush (923173) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:46AM (#32770414) Homepage

    17% of them being unable to find a job within six months of graduation

    So 83% are finding jobs within 6 months? That sounds suprisingly good if you ask me...Better than I would expect.

    I hate statistics, they're so over and incorrectly used.

  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:46AM (#32770422)

    Take showers before going out in public. Brush your teeth twice a day. Get a haircut. Shave. Trim your eyebrow.

    [trollface.jpg]

    It's a bit weird, as overhere I received news IT is picking up and infrastructure and maintenance jobs are still required; companies rely on their IT infrastructure and automation tasks.

    I was talking about this with a friend and wondered how the industry would evolve, and wondering why and how many people would still pick up on information tech, as we used to have popculture around IT sparking and keeping our interest (hackers, matrix, the net, ...) while we had this "new thing to play with", visibly evolving tech, games we could improve yourselves and what have you.

    These days, it doesn't seem "new" and I only encounter few students who are enthousiastic as "we used to be", and the online experience is a bit compressed to a few major sites (compared to the animated-gif glory of the turn of the millenium, where everyone had their personal webpage and everybody tried to create something).

    Considering there's been a major risk in commencing IT studies (in the crisis, alot of graduates have been doing dishes instead of working, having their skills "outdated" and being replaced by the next batch of graduates the year after fe.) I got the impression it's an industry drying up and will be high in demand in a few years.

    I'm really curious for other people's perspectives though..

  • by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:48AM (#32770426) Homepage

    ....would be a % of how many of those graduates actually understand anything about CS, or can apply it at all. My bet is that rather than CS grads having high unemployment, there is just a higher % of 'chaff' graduates that are just totally useless - which is likely considering CS is quite a bit more difficult to 'get' and apply than many other subjects

  • Economics. Sorry for being obvious but I guess it doesn't make economic sense in most cases repayng years of some of the most expensive (though not the worst...) education available and at the same time paying pretty high taxes, when they can find developers in Russia, India or Ukraine at a fraction of the cost. E
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:48AM (#32770430)

    They were stupid enough to choose Computer Science for a degree, so it's not surprising they can't find jobs.

    I'll summarise what was in my Computer Science degree course: mathematics. I would probably have ended up with a better grade if I never touched a computer during the course.

  • by Zuzzy (124703) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:50AM (#32770440)

    When I left 8 years ago, most of the best grads were in sponsorship schemes with the likes of Nortel and Marconi - and as it turned out they all left with no job to go to.

    Given the number of people who came out of these courses, and given the number of brilliant grads in my dept who had no job for months at that time, what hope have the 60% who scraped by?

    Mutliply that by the huge rise in these courses available from UK unis and ex-polys today and it isnt a surprise that McDonald's has a continuous employment pool.

    And the ridiculous thing is that I have been involved in trying to fill a backlog in recruitment for about a year and there are no candidates with decent experience in the market (it would seem). So its all about that first job still.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:04AM (#32770514)

    Very true, Computer Science is a true degree, in that it's an academic endeavour, not a vocational one. It sums up everything that university should be about. I only wish the software engineering courses were moved off to where they should be – vocational collages.

    Note: I'm not implying CSE is in some way inferior to CS – merely that if you want a vocational qualification, you should look at a vocational collage, as should employers.

    Academics on the other hand should look at university courses.

  • by Shrike82 (1471633) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:06AM (#32770534)
    As a UK lecturer on a CS course I can confirm that this is part of the problem. The prevalanence of computers means that all Universities have expanded their computing facilities and continue to do so. This means they can offer more computing places, which means more and more people who don't really know anything about computers can enroll on a CS course. Lots of students stare blankly at you when you talk about directories as a tree structure, or tell them they'll be using a command line interface. They think that checking their e-mails, browsing YouTube and managing to cheat in their college computing coursework means that a CS degree will be easy. Gone are the days when a computing degree would be full of nerds and geeks. Now it's full of people that really should be out there getting a job instead of wasting time and resources in Universities that are financially stretched as it is.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:14AM (#32770562) Homepage Journal

    Take showers before going out in public. Brush your teeth twice a day. Get a haircut. Shave. Trim your eyebrow.

    [trollface.jpg]

    It's a bit weird, as overhere I received news IT is picking up and infrastructure and maintenance jobs are still required; companies rely on their IT infrastructure and automation tasks.

    But computer science graduates don't go into IT. Thats a blue collar profession now. Installing windows and reloading printers.

    I work in transport. Road and air. There is demand for software engineering pretty much wherever you look. In the UK I would expect that rail and sea transport would be more important too.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:18AM (#32770582) Journal

    The point is not to gloat, but to make the point that a job is not always the right course of action for someone leaving university, and especially not in a field like computer science. There is lots of work that needs doing, but a lot of it is not in the UK. The last piece of work I did for a UK company was two or three years ago, but there is no shortage of contracting work available from foreign companies that I can do in the UK.

    By placing emphasis on the idea that 'now you've got a degree, you must get a job,' a lot of former students are completely ignoring other options for earning a living. As a nice side effect for the rest of the UK, because all of my income currently comes from abroad it is providing a small boost to the local economy. This would be a much bigger boost if more people worked in the same way. Rather than being unemployed and a drain on the state, people with useful skills could be bringing money into the country.

    Computer science is not the only field where this is an option. For example, a number of my friends work as freelance translators. They work on a contract basis for companies around the world, but mostly in Europe, translating things into English (or American, in some cases).

    The Internet means that many kinds of work no longer require physical proximity. Just because there are no jobs for these kinds of work in the UK does not mean that it is impossible for people in the UK to be paid to do this kind of work. For sure, it's not for everyone, but I'd imagine that a lot of the currently unemployed computer science graduates could work this way if they realised that it was an option.

    As a corollary, the government could do a lot to make it easier for people leaving university to become self employed, in terms of tax law and advice.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:34AM (#32770662)

    I'm in the UK, have a computer science degree (two, actually), and have never really looked for a job. I've had two books published (with a third coming out soon), and have no shortage of consulting work.

    I would assume that you had a job before taking up consultancy. Very few people can become consultants straight from University.

  • by somersault (912633) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:45AM (#32770726) Homepage Journal

    By the sounds of this report, computer science grads don't go into anything!

    I work in IT, for an engineering company. I do occasionally reinstall Windows and reload printers, but I also maintain a couple of their technical apps and I've been developing a few web based systems for different depts which at least holds my interest. I've sometimes wondered if I left this job whether I would even stay in IT though - it's what I'm good at and it pays well, but I also have this strange urge to be a delivery driver so I can just drive around all day listening to music :P Not sure how long it would take me to get bored of that!

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:54AM (#32770786) Journal

    Nope, I started freelancing during my PhD, and continued to do it full time afterwards. I had a couple of jobs while I was an undergrad, but they didn't really make me want one when I finished. I did a couple of short-term academic research jobs (one between degrees, one after the PhD), but they don't really count because they were basically being a student without getting another degree at the end. The writing work I got through talking to the right people (contacts I made while working on the XMPP standard, while I was an undergrad), and the subsequent consulting has mainly come via my involvement with open source projects.

    No one becomes a well-paid consultant straight out of university (unless they have well-connected parents or something), but even while I was a student there was a reasonable amount of poorly paid contracting work available, and it's often possible to turn this into better-paid work when you've built a relationship with the company. Once you're sufficiently familiar with their operations that you can do in an hour something that someone less experienced would take a day to do, you can charge the same amount that the other person would charge for half a day and it's still good value for them.

    When you're starting out, it's much more important to build a good relationship with your customers than to get paid a lot. I'll often do a small amount for free for a potential client and then give them a quote for the rest - that way they have something to judge the value of the contract to them. I don't want to work for anyone who won't be happy with my work, and no one wants to employ a contractor to do work they won't be happy with (although a depressing number of companies do).

    That's the point of my post. Having a job is not the same as earning an income. You can leave university and become self employed, working for companies anywhere in the world, and being given a wide variety of interesting problems to work on. Or you can complain that there are no jobs (there certainly aren't many around here, although there are a couple of interesting startups). Most people pick option 2, and most of them do it because no one tells them that option 1 exists.

  • Mod editor up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:01AM (#32770816) Homepage

    As the article submitter, I'm like to note that timothy actually corrected a factual inaccuracy in my original submission. In other words, he read the linked article and... well, there's no other word for it... he edited the submission.

    I know, I know: I wouldn't have believed it unless I'd seen it myself.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:04AM (#32770828)
    In britain almost no companies recruit direct. For reasons that can be summarised as laziness on the part of personnel (aka Human Resources) departments, and their unwillingness to learn how to filter technical resumes (aka CVs), the entire recruitment process for IT professionals is outsourced to agencies.

    Sadly the induviduals who "work" ( a term used in its loosest possible sense) are even worse at identifying suitable candidates than the HR departments would be. All they do is take a list of keywords dreamed up from deep within the recruiting company and slavishly match them against all the electronic applications they have on file.

    What they happens is some random acts of association. Your CV says "3 years C++", the client asked for 2 years, so you're overqualified. They asked for Javascript experience, you have Java so you get sent on an entirely pointless interview that takes a day of vacation (or sick) time. Turn down an interview prospect and you're labeled "hard to please" and no more opportunities come your way. In fact it's a wonder that any vacancies get filled, that any IT departments get any staff who can actually do the job - rather than fulfill the tick-list the agencies use. In fact the only people who get what they want out of this arrangement are the commission-earning staff, who not only get paid for placing an unsuitable candidate, but then harass that person's previous employer and get paid if they fill the vacancy they created.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:18AM (#32770952) Journal
    In theory, yes, except for two things:
    • Departments only get funding for students who complete a year, meaning that they try not to let people drop out during the year. A lot of students would be better off deciding after a month that computer science isn't what they thought it was and dropping out, but this means that the department gets no money for them, which screws up their accounting.
    • University league tables use drop out rate as a negative when scoring. If 50% of people drop out before finishing the course, the department gets a low ranking, which makes it harder to recruit students in the future. This means that departments would rather graduate you with a third or a pass than let you fail.

    In CompSci in particular, a lot of people come in with no understanding of what the subject is really about. These people would be much better off switching to something else or going straight into industry, but the system is set up in such a way as to encourage departments to retain them and give them a poor quality degree.

  • by xaxa (988988) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:25AM (#32771014)

    Currently in my country CS students could choose from as many jobs as they please.

    Everyone I know that did a halfway-decent CS course at an OK-or-better university has got a job very quickly. I think we need to see a breakdown by the degree and/or university.

    I expect degrees like "IT and Tourism Management" (Uni. Greenwich), "IT for the Internet" (Uni. Hertfordshire), "IT Support" (Kingston Uni.), "Information Technology and Media Studies" (Uni. Wales at Lampater) to have worse job prospects than any computer science degree.

    (I can't link to the list, but from here [ucas.com] click Search by Subject, I, IT, all IT courses.)

  • by NJRoadfan (1254248) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:14AM (#32771464)
    It actually amazed me in college how many people majoring in CS didn't know how to program...along with some who really didn't want to know because they really didn't like it. Umm, its a CS degree track, what did you expect, basketweaving?
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:23AM (#32771546)

    ...balk at Help Desk offers because they think it's beneath them.

    For graduates who are trained to a reasonable level of knowledge and skills, it often is beneath them, in the sense that they are capable of doing much more demanding (and better compensated) things.

    Unfortunately for them, there are already many existing workers in the market with equally good paperwork and several years of real world experience behind them. Blame the dot-com boom for starting the trend, the general push in the UK to get everyone and his brother to do a university degree for perpetuating it, and the way that we're a relatively young industry and few people hitting retirement age and leaving the employment pool today are in IT for not closing the cycle.

    In that context, most employers are going to go for the proven, experienced candidate over the hot shot graduate without a second thought. There used to be a reasonable argument about taking on fresh grads rather than people with a year or two of experience because then you could train people in your own organisation's way of doing things without having to break old habits. However, when you can hire people who have been "downsized" after 5 or 10 years in the business for not much more money than a graduate would be claiming a year or two down the line, even that argument for hiring grads is weak.

    There are just too many people with these qualifications, at a time when not enough paying jobs require them.

  • Recruitment woes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:19AM (#32772096)
    I had someone come for interview not that long ago with a "first class" degree in computer science from a former poly. I actually apologised to him for asking our standard questions, which begin "How many bits in a computer word?" - which can elicit a response from "32" to "which architecture are we talking about here?" - it's an open ended question, in fact.

    Blank look.

    To cut a long story short, all he knew about was "web design" - but he couldn't actually do any job because he would be utterly unsafe. Buffer overflow? Numeric overflow? Performance? Algorithms? Not the first clue.

    In fact on this particular recruitment run we had three like that if you include the one with the fake degree certificate.

  • by nten (709128) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:57AM (#32772542)

    Ask graduates after five years if they felt the money spent on their education was a good investment. That encourages the school to fail or otherwise convince people who shouldn't be in the field to leave, as they won't be happy once they hit the real world, and will hurt their metrics. It should probably be broken out by discipline.

  • Re:Recruitment woes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:02AM (#32773514)

    Having graduated from a fairly prestigious and well known Tech college in the U.S. a few years ago with a CS degree, I am not surprised at the lack of a response to these questions. Most classes these days teach things in Java (when I was in school) and in C# (now). Thus, things like buffer overflows are not much of a concern because of things like bounded arrays. Although, I'm not saying you couldn't do it if you tried. On the other hand, bit level logic is taught even less, because bit level handling in Java is atrocious. I was never even formally taught C, although I had to learn it for some of the upper level classes I had. We had one required class on assembly language and digital circuitry, and it wasn't even x86. There were some upper level classes on operating system design, that you could take but that was it. As for algorithms, we had one theory class.

    As for your consultant comment I totally agree. I was lucky enough when I graduated to work for a company in a very niche field in telecommunications. Because of the connections I made with various clients and partners as well as the unique knowledge I learned I have been able to continually receive very well paid consulting work.

  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:47PM (#32780234)

    For graduates who are trained to a reasonable level of knowledge and skills, it often is beneath them, in the sense that they are capable of doing much more demanding (and better compensated) things.

    Yet it can be a way to get into the business with a bit of luck. My first "real" job after university was 2nd level support, after graduating as electrical engineer right into the mid-90s layoff wave in engineering. Not really what I hoped for. The whole thing happened in Europe BTW.

    But my next job was advertised as "supporter with some additional software development" and turned out to be 70% software development, 30% support. With the experience from that I was eventually able to find a genuine development job.

    Bottom line:
    Even a slightly different entry position can eventually get you into an OK place.

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