Welsh education goes digital with software university plans to fill tech skills gap

Welsh government keen to address the nation's technology skills shortage

Wales is due to get its first software university, with the aim to address concerns that the country is short of high-tech skills it needs for the future.

A Newport-based team is designing a two-year degree that is due to start in September and will enable students to study via an online course with incorporated work experience.

The course aims to help students learn the skills they need to gain entry into Wales’s hi-tech industries.

One of the main organisations behind the software university plan is the Alacrity Foundation, a charity that aims to help graduates set up technology enterprises. The Alacrity Foundation’s chair Simon Gibson believes that the demand for ICT skills is much larger than many realise.

“It’s not just software engineers writing things for mobile phones now,” Gibson told the BBC. “Software engineers are needed in the insurance business, finance, bioscience, anything that involves economic development requires good software skills.”

It is not clear where the courses will be taught. V3 contacted Alacrity for comment on this but had received no reply at the time of publication.

Currently, there is a concern that a shortage of relevant skills is presenting a barrier for graduates wanting to enter Welsh technology companies.

Unlike in England, the study of computing and coding is not yet a compulsory part of the Welsh curriculum. This has led to concerns that the country could be left behind in the digital age.

Although the Welsh government is currently reviewing the curriculum with the aim to bring in more ICT education, it could take several years for the changes to be put in place.

This could mean that a generation of students miss out on the IT skills that their peers will have picked up in nations with more ICT-centric curriculums.

Tom Kelly, the chairman of the Welsh government’s ICT sector panel, warned in March that a lack of essential IT skills is a major problem as the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology.

“Economies all over the world have woken up to the enabling power of ICT and it’s crucial that Wales remains ahead of the curve,” said Kelly.

Across the IT sector there is a perceived lack of up-to-date skills. Microsoft recently predicted there would be a huge technology skills shortage by 2025, which could have an adverse effect on cyber security.

Initiatives are underway to combat the lack of digital knowledge, with primary school teachers across the UK being given free training on how to teach children digital skills.

By September, a completely overhauled curriculum will be in place for England, making it mandatory to tech children basic programming and algorithms.

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22 July 2014 | 2:35 pm – Source: v3.co.uk

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