MathWorks, the developer of MATLAB and Simulink, today released research that identifies a skills gap among UK graduates entering the financial services industry. Financial services professionals stressed the need for graduates with a strong combination of maths and IT skills and experience solving real-world problems. 62% of those surveyed confirmed there is a skills gap - the difference between the skills required of graduates by industry and those that they actually possess - affecting the industry, and 34% felt it has worsened over the last three years.
These results align with those from other international surveys, such as the 2013 edition of the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which found that UK students are underperforming in maths and science, in comparison with other countries.
Experts from the financial services industry discussed the skills gap and suggested approaches to bridge the gap. They identified the application of real-world project-based learning and greater collaboration between academia and industry as key to success. They also recommended holistic combinations of multiple science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects to merge theory and application and provide a strong graduate footprint in developing, implementing, and communicating insightful and trustworthy data analytics.
- Over 60% said that there is a skills gap affecting the financial sector.
- 34% of respondents felt the gap worsened over the last three years, while 53% felt it had stayed the same.
- 44% felt that integrating real-world problems into curricula could help close the skills gap.
- 40% felt secondary schools in the UK should provide a stronger focus on IT and maths.
- 37% felt university students should be encouraged to combine IT and maths skills.
- Respondents felt graduates needed improved skills in maths, statistics, and data analysis.
Steve Wilcockson, industry manager for financial services at MathWorks, explained: “Effective models have become the key to success for financial firms, as they seek to harness the wealth of data they hold in order to manage risk and identify competitive advantages. As such, the financial services industry seeks to recruit graduates capable of navigating equations, statistics, and models and implementing them through code to offer reliable insights. Our survey has made for worrying reading, as finance experts describe current student cohorts as potentially lacking the core skills required to succeed in their industry.
“Industry and academia need to work together to address this problem and ensure students are well prepared for their careers by understanding the needs of industry and reflecting this in curricula. Whether through guest lectures, providing practical examples of real-world problems, or improving internship programmes, industry needs to become more engaged in the development of graduates. Also, integrating industry-standard software, hardware, and thinking into the curriculum lets students effectively prepare for their careers and enhance their ability to hit the ground running once employed.”
The full report from MathWorks can be downloaded here.