A significant skills gap is emerging in the UK video games industry with employment in IT forecast to grow at five to eight times average UK jobs growth over the next decade.
But admissions to IT degree courses have fallen by 46 per cent since 2001 and are continuing to decline.
With these issues compounded by an exodus of programmers to countries such as France and Canada, where governments have introduced tax breaks to support the video games industry, the boss of Leamington-Spa-based Blitz Games said UK firms were “screaming for” talent.
Blitz Games chief executive Philip Oliver is waging a campaign to gear the UK educational system more towards turning out computer programmers and is attacking the problems on a number of fronts.
He said: “There are lots of issues. One of those is that there is an awful lot of university courses professing to teach the skills required by the games industry – some are good but a lot are not and they need to up their game and get better lecturers.
“We have been working with Skillset to get the best courses accredited and hopefully get the other courses to fall in line.”
He said another problem was the fact computer programming is not available to study until A-level, which produces a Catch 22 situation where those colleges and universities offering courses were not able to find students.
“At the moment if you want to go into programming computers you can’t study anything at school up until the age of 15 because it’s not in the national curriculum.
“The first you can do is A-level but students aren’t going to want to take an A-level when they haven’t done the GSCEs.
“So the colleges that are able to offer A-level can’t find the students to do the course and the people who are teaching the degrees can’t get the students either.”
The information and communication technologies (ICT) syllabus taught in schools was also wide of the mark, Mr Oliver said, as it is geared towards teaching children how to use emails and computer software, skills which many pick up anyway from growing up with computers at home.
“There’s a lot of spare capacity there,” he added.
“Instead of teaching them how to suck eggs, let’s make a little Flash game – that would be really inspiring. They could use games as a bit of a hook as making games is not only training for the games industry.
“There’s a whole variety of technical and artistic fields which are really useful later in life.”
He also called for a tailoring of university course fees according to industry demand for certain skills, with subsidised courses in areas where the UK economy is suffering from a skills gap, not only in the video games sector but also in areas like pharmaceuticals.
“At the moment if I studied tapestry or computer programming it would cost me the same,” he said.
“If you subsidised the courses that have been industry-accredited through someone like Skillset for example, that would attract people to go on the courses that are needed and it would be better for students in their future.”