This week, HP announced it had formed an educational partnership with Staffordshire University to jointly create degree courses in technology and computing. The flagship degree will be a BSc in computing.
Speaking to CRN, HP's UK managing director Nick Wilson said more needs to be done to bridge the technology skills gap and to address flagging interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at the same time as scouting future HP talent.
Why is it so important to invest in degree courses such as this?
The heart of this for us is to promote the adoption of STEM skills throughout the education system. The popularity of STEM subjects has been suffering for a few years while technology is becoming more and more important to businesses.
How much of a problem does the skills gap pose for tech companies?
It is no good for the industry to stand by and say "we are not getting the right skills", so we want to form partnerships around STEM. People going to university have a betting chip and they are trying to work out where they place it. We want to encourage them to place their bets on technology.
We have a unique partnership with Staffordshire University and other universities and vendors need to catch up fast; we need this in the industry and the approach we have is unique.
What makes the partnership with Staffordshire different from your other education investments?
We will help re-kit the IT of Staffordshire University so the teaching experience is a good one. It is a four-year degree with a year placement as part of it. Students could be out in China [for the year placement] which is really important; employability is not just something to consider in the UK, there is an international stage now. We at HP aim to teach [parts of] the degree, it could even be me. We want to equip students with the skills to be more employable.
What employment prospects can students look forward to once completing this degree?
If [students] can complete the degrees, [have a year in industry] then from our point of view, they will be pretty much productive in six months. There will not be a two-year training plan [post-graduation] and that is their reward. The degree will be industry standard, though students might not want to join us; it is my job to persuade them to come to us.
How many young people do you hope will join HP following completion of an accredited course?
It is difficult to quote numbers as we do not know what intake we have yet. From other [partnership courses] we take on a good number of graduates; in the hundreds region. If we were to recruit between 20 and 50 per university, I would be delighted. They have to pass the quality bar though – just because they are at a partnership university [does not mean they get a job automatically], there are still standards to meet.
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