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Closing the IT skills gap

18 July 2018

National Academy Software students

The very first students to graduate from Cardiff University’s National Software Academy are celebrating today as they take up jobs at leading companies across the country.

As the first to complete the three-year degree programme in Applied Software Engineering, the students are entering into the world of work with a fully developed skillset thanks to the Academy’s unique and innovative approach to teaching.

It is hoped this landmark will kick-start the supply of skilled graduates into a sector that has, up until now, experienced a shortfall in suitable employees – market research undertaken by Welsh Government predicts that industries in Wales demand around 3,000 qualified IT professionals each year.

The Academy launched three years ago with a remit of providing students with ‘real-life’ working experiences throughout their degree programme.

This was in response to feedback from industry that graduates were lacking in a number of essential skills to make them work-ready when they left university.

The Academy was launched with the help of funding from Welsh Government and is run in close collaboration with industry.

It mimics a workplace environment with an emphasis on working in small groups with industry working practices.

Throughout the degree programme, students tackle existing problems and projects under the mentorship of experienced practitioners from a broad range of industry partners, including Acorn, Admiral, Laing O’Rourke and Newport City Council.

Preparing for the workplace

Gareth Livermore, who is 29 and originally from Caerphilly, had applied to study for a degree in computer science but was attracted by the practical and project-focussed teaching approach at the Academy.

After taking up the Applied Software Engineering programme and subsequently working on a summer placement with Admiral, he has now secured a job in the company’s IT team.

“I definitely feel the course has helped prepare me for the workplace,” Gareth said. “It has provided me with the experience of understanding and meeting clients' needs as well as the surrounding responsibilities of a development team, such as managing expectations and estimating workloads.”

Gareth also praised the flexibility of studying at the Academy, and the breadth of teaching that allowed him to develop a broad range of skills.

“Looking after my two-year-old son meant that parental responsibilities sometimes took priority over my studies, but I was always given the time and tools to be able to catch up. The lecturers were very approachable and have used a variety of different teaching methods to cater to different learning styles of individual students.

“I feel the course has made me very adaptable so I now look forward to discovering where I may like to specialise in the future.”

Building on success

The Academy has picked up several awards since its initial launch and will soon expand into new offices in Newport to accommodate for the growing student numbers.

In September the Academy will also roll out a postgraduate degree in Software Engineering aimed at providing graduates from a variety of academic backgrounds with the essential skills and hands-on experience to work in the IT sector.

Matthew Turner, the National Software Academy Manager, said: “Since the concept of a national centre for software engineering was first discussed many years ago, it’s been a long journey to arrive at a point today where we are now celebrating with our very first graduates.

“This would not have been possible without the support of Welsh Government, the Alacrity Foundation, our Industry Partners and, most importantly, the dedicated staff within the Academy.

“We’re very proud of the graduates and everything that they’ve achieved. What is even more pleasing is that these students are finding jobs in the industry and are extremely well-equipped to hit the ground running on their first day of work. This is what the National Software Academy set out to achieve, and I look forward to celebrating with many more graduates in the years to come.”