Computer students

International computer giant and College to address skills gap in industry first

Somerset College and Hewlett Packard are teaming up in an industry first to create a unique Foundation Degree to bridge the UK Skills Gap.

Somerset College have been selected by Hewlett-Packard and Thames Valley University as just one of 12 centres across England to offer the Foundation Degree course to part-time students.

The FdSc Computer Systems Management degree aims to support people already working in IT, or those seeking to move into the field. It will integrate HP Certified Professional content with key elements required for a UK degree course and work based learning.

It is the first time that a global IT company has partnered with a College like this to provide a degree course accessible to people across the country.

‘Nationally the number of school leavers entering full-time higher education courses in Computing has halved in recent years,' said Chris Lacey, Head of Division of Technology at Somerset College.

‘This is in contrast to research that suggests that 163,000 new employers will be needed in the IT profession by 2016. Without significant action, either even more jobs will be lost through outsourcing to countries like India, or UK business as a whole will suffer major problems relying as it does on IT infrastructures. With the supply of full-time graduates beginning to dry up the new ‘HP degree' course offers employers across the country an effective and highly cost efficient way to train and retain staff.'

The result of more than three years co-development between TVU and HP, the Foundation Degree, which launches nationally in autumn 2008, combines 14 separate HP certifications and offers people across England the opportunity to gain commercial awareness and skills that they couldn't expect from a standard degree course. The certifications cover a range of disciplines, including sales, planning and design.

Students will only need to attend College regularly for one evening per week whilst continuing in full-time employment. They will also attend four three-day residential courses per year where they will take the HP element of the degree integrated with general degree content. On completion they will be able to gain a full BSc Honours degree.

'Working towards closing the IT skills gap, the Computing Systems Foundation Degree is a result of more than three years collaboration between HP and TVU,' said Mike Bicknell, Business Develop Manager, HP Certified & Education, Solution Partner Organisation (SPO).

'The government-supported e-skills council is keen to facilitate collaboration between IT vendors and academic institutions, so we are excited with the new nationwide delivery of an industry-first degree where both the needs of employers and the academic structure will be met.'

'In conjunction with HP and TVU, we have worked hard to develop a joint delivery model which can address the needs of people working in the South West," added Chris Lacey.

'Being part-time the course fee is much lower than for full-time study and depending on earnings grants are available which in some cases may mean that the course is effectively free. We are delighted to be in a position to work with HP and TVU on this unique opportunity. Not only will the Foundation Degree enable students to develop new skills, it will also offer them the opportunity to gain accredited work within their existing employment.'

To enrol on the course at Somerset College, contact the College on (01823) 366 331, alternatively email