Microsoft's UK managing director, Gordon Frazer, has said the recession could produce the next Google as the lack of jobs forces IT workers to rely on innovation.
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"Recessions in the past couple of decades have seen a large increase in the number of start-up companies. People find themselves unemployed and if they have an idea it's a good time to do it. A lot of innovation can come from that," he said.
Strong companies are likely to remain strong, but weaker companies could be at risk unless they manage to innovate through new products and solutions.
"Google and others came out of the dotcom bubble," said Frazer.
"The industry will be reshaped by the recession. It will certainly survive, but will evolve and adapt."
Around 150 pupils who are studying for the diploma attended the event at Microsoft's offices in London. They listened to talks from Microsoft employees and took part in a competition to design a new technology.
Frazer said it is "critically" important to keep investing in training throughout the recession.
"If you're going to be reducing your workforce, you'll be doing business with fewer people," he said. "You've got to give these people better skills, whether it's IT specialist skills or the general IT skills of the broader workforce.
"In our business we are managing costs, but we are not cutting back on training. Skills are critically important from a competitiveness point of view."