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Children as young as five will begin learning computer coding next year as part of a shake-up of the U.K.'s national curriculum, but the move is as much about giving British education an edge as it is about plugging a talent gap in the computing and technology sectors.
Computing skills are becoming vital in an increasingly digital world as Europe looks to compete against Silicon Valley in the technology sector. But the U.K. is suffering a big shortage of workers equipped with the skills to give home-grown technology businesses a leading edge.
Almost half of London's 1,350 high-tech businesses say a shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge they face, according to a study by market research firm GFK. The survey also found that 77 percent said they could grow their business if there was more talent available.
The short supply of skilled workers is a "major issue" for U.K. technology companies which are feeling the pinch from wage inflation, Anne Giulianotti, joint team head of GfK NOP business and technology, told CNBC.
"In the short term it is driving up wages, making it hard for small companies to employ people."
Starting in September 2014, children will learn about algorithms and programming. The curriculum faced opposition from teachers when it was announced in July. Chris Keates, leader of the Nast teachers' union, called it an "ideological crusade", while the National Union of Teachers' deputy leader, Kevin Courtney, said it was written by "government advisers and officials, not teachers".
The business body for the IT industry, BCS, is setting up a training network to make teachers have the right skills and knowledge for the new curriculum. It hopes that it will have the infrastructure to train 16,000 teachers by 2016.
But the body admitted that the task is a tough one. Bill Mitchell, director of education at BCS, told CNBC that the "biggest challenge" is getting enough teachers trained to carry out the curriculum.
(Read More: Why you might want to start speaking in code)
Codecademy is another company providing materials and courses to teach teachers about computing.
It claims the new curriculum will be help the U.K. become a world leader in technology and computing helping to boost the internet economy in Britain which is expected to be value at £221 billion ($358 billion) by 2016.
"A long time ago people thought, 'why would you need to learn to type?' But could you imagine anyone now working without knowing how to type?" Leng Lee, head of operations at Codecademy, told CNBC.
"So much of our lives are based around computers and technology. We are living more online and the production of these services is going to rely on people who know how technology works. It is only going to give us a chance to get further ahead."
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter