As The Open University's lead on IT industry engagement, it's part of my job to make sure the degrees we offer are servicing the IT industry in the best possible way. That not only means aligning our courses with career structures like CIO Executive Council Pathways and skills frameworks like SFIA, but also providing talented individuals that will make a positive difference to the companies they join.
The issues that keep surfacing both in conversation and in our research are that graduates coming out of education have neither the business acumen to succeed in the modern workplace nor the specific technical skill sets required for particular IT roles.
We think our new degrees developed alongside e-Skills UK and industry players like IBM address these issues head on. The new BSc (Honours) Computing and IT and the BSc (Honours) Computing & IT and a second subject are a response to employer concern over the competency of the recruitment pool that is forcing companies to look overseas for their IT services.
The joint award programme allows students to study IT alongside subjects that enhance their business skills, whilst the single award provides students with clear paths to specific IT roles, giving them more specialised skills and increasing their value to employers. It also includes a vendor certification pathway that gives employers confidence in graduates' competency through internationally recognised awards such as Microsoft Server and Cisco.
But it's not just about people starting out in their careers. We're also dedicated to up-skilling current IT workers and providing them with a professional degree that improves their own careers and has a positive impact on the business as a whole. The Open University's innovative teaching methods enable employers to train and develop their staff without losing them from the workplace. Crucially, people already in the industry don't have to start from scratch as these degrees give credit for relevant previous experience and include work-based learning modules.
According to an e-Skills report at the beginning of the year, there will be 110,000 jobs created in IT this year. We're all acutely aware of the skills gap that exists in the industry, and the difficulty employers are going to have filling these vacancies in a satisfactory fashion. As the UK's largest education institution, the new undergraduate degrees extend our existing industry provision in IT foundation degrees and are part of our response to ensuring this separation between what graduates offer and what employers need doesn't happen again in the future.
Kevin Streater FIITT FBCS CITP, executive director, employer engagement for the IT & telecoms industry at The Open University