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Open University launches computing BSc to plug business skills gap in IT workforce

Jenny Williams

The Open University (OU) has launched an undergraduate computing and IT degree course to tackle the UK IT skills gap.

The OU's BSc computing and IT programme provides work-based learning and supplier certifications to help IT employers recruit and train IT staff.

Kevin Streater, executive director for IT and telecoms at the OU (pictured), said: "These new degrees are the result of years of industry engagement and tackle two major issues raised by employers. The joint honours programme allows candidates to study IT alongside commercial subjects, improving the business acumen of graduates, whilst the single award provides students with clear paths to specific IT roles giving them more specialised skills, and increasing their value to employers."

A recent study by the OU found 43% of employers reporting a lack of suitable candidates for IT and telecoms roles due to a lack of business knowledge surrounding relationship management, business process analysis and design, project and programme management.

In addition, according to E-Skills UK, the IT industry is set to grow five times faster than the average UK industry, requiring 110,000 new entrants in 2011 to keep pace with demand.

Mark Ratcliffe, director of higher education engagement at E-skills UK, said: "If we are to secure a healthy pipeline of talent coming into the industry, then we need to engage people at all stages in their career in relevant industry learning. [The OU's] emphasis on work-based learning means younger students with less experience can earn a salary as they study, whilst more experienced students can earn credits for their existing skills and knowledge."

Employers are considering using the courses to improve the skills of existing IT teams.

Paul Jagger, business area manger for learning development at IBM, said: "Mapping these degrees to BCS accreditations and the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) that underpin IT staff recruitment and development in the UK, gives employers like IBM the confidence that sending staff on these degrees will deliver discernible and immediate returns on their investment".

Some large companies, such as Sky, BT, IBM and Visa Europe, are introducing their own apprenticeship schemes to secure their future IT workforces.


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