Business-based IT degree will create ready-to-work employees

Some of the UK’s biggest employers are backing a new style of degree that promises to create IT professionals with the business...

Some of the UK’s biggest employers are backing a new style of degree that promises to create IT professionals with the business and interpersonal skills needed to become quickly productive in the workplace.

The degree will begin at Brighton University in 2004 before rolling out to other UK universities. It addresses employers’ concerns that IT graduates can need up to 18 months of coaching before they start making a financial contribution to the business. It also has the potential to cut employers’ training costs.

The Information Technology Management BSc, developed by Brighton University with with BT, Ford, Norwich Union and other leading employers, will dispense with traditional lectures in favour of teamwork, problem solving and e-learning.

"Employers often spend quite a bit of time and energy with new graduates, who have just focused on the technology, to make them productive in the business environment. We are hoping, with our combination of business and interpersonal skills, to reduce that," said David Coutinho, senior lecturer at Brighton University.

Students will spend part of each year in industry, working in groups on real-life IT projects in the sponsoring businesses, where they will learn about the workplace and meet IT managers. IT directors and senior managers from business will give regular seminars.

Students will be trained in presentation, communications and business skills, which they will put into practice with their technical IT skills.

"The pain of transferring from academic to business life will be a lot less. People will become more productive more quickly," said Mike Hender, of E-skills UK, which is co-ordinating the development of the degree.

Employers will be involved in the selection process for the programme, and although there are no guaranteed jobs, the firms have made it clear that they are likely to offer jobs to graduates who make a good impression.

"Currently we spend a great deal of money after graduates join us. It takes two years to get them fully up to speed. We are trying to get those skills into graduates before they join us," said Tracy Upton, integrated technology services account manager at IBM.

Twenty-five places with bursaries from the South of England Development Agency to study at Brighton University’s Hastings campus will be offered as part of a local regeneration programme.

E-skills UK said it hoped that 10 more universities would adopt similar programmes by 2009.

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