Cardiff University launches software academy degree
The first 30 students at Wales' national software academy have started a degree course aimed at filling some of the hundreds of vacancies in the technology industry.
The three-year course in Applied Software Engineering from Cardiff University and based in Newport is the first of its kind in the UK.
It aims to make graduates "work ready".
As well as practical software engineering, students will learn how to market a product and run a business.
Aled Davies, 27, from near Cardigan, Ceredigion, has been part of the one-year pilot for the new degree, which ran from last September.
He said: "It's given me the skills to work with customers or work on projects and understand the requirements a lot more and then I can apply those skills to the actual development of the piece of software."
He has gone straight from the pilot to working on a programme to reduce the drugs bill for the NHS in Wales.
The new course has come about after nearly 18 months of lobbying by IT executives who were worried the whole Welsh economy could be held back because of the shortage of software engineers.
It is estimated that 3,100 new IT recruits are needed each year in Wales just to stand still.
The Tech Partnership, a network of IT employers, estimates 62% of UK businesses employing tech specialists - from insurance firms to travel agents - are suffering from skills gaps.
Meanwhile, the EU forecasts there will be a shortfall of 900,000 IT professionals across Europe by 2020.
John Holvey, course developer with the National Software Academy, said the industry was "desperate" for the talent, adding it was no longer about "geeks" working on computer coding.
"Ten years ago we had bright kids and no jobs and now we've got jobs everywhere and not enough people who are software engineers," he said.
"You can find firms everywhere with a vacancy, particularly for graduates. Not just software houses but large corporates with software departments themselves. There are hundreds of jobs in south Wales alone."
He added: "We're not talking about coders any more but software engineers, customer skills and user interface designs. Web and mobile technology has changed the game completely."
CASE STUDY - DVLA, SWANSEA
More than 10% of the 5,500 staff at the driver licensing agency DVLA in Swansea are IT professionals.
Emma Ley-Davies of DVLA said software engineers were "incredibly important" and they were up against other organisations for the right calibre of people.
"We want to compete with the London area and we want bring those talents to us. Attracting the right skills is of critical importance.
"We're keen to work with all universities and schools that offer these courses. It gives them first hand experience and it means that when they join us they're ready to go."
Economy Minister Edwina Hart AM is providing £240,000 funding to support the academy over the next three years from her budget rather than from the higher education budget to show her commitment to it.
She is already hopeful satellite courses can be set up in other parts of Wales.
"These people when they finish will be job-ready," said Mrs Hart.
"Very good graduates come out in some sectors but aren't job-ready and companies have to train them for six months first. This overcomes that."