​New IT Academy Launched at Walsall College | Walsall College
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​New IT Academy Launched at Walsall College

In partnership with IT specialists, risual and Microsoft, Walsall College has launched a state-of-the-art IT academy at its £11m business and sports Hub, to help address a growing shortage of digital skills and bridge the gap between industry and education.

Over 80 employers attended the official opening of the centre by Stewart Towe CBE, Chairman of The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) on Monday 6th June, which also marked the start of Walsall Business Week.

L-R: James Norris (Assistant Principal for Commercial Development at Walsall College), Jatinder Sharma OBE (Principal and Chief Executive at Walsall College), Richard Zaltman (Public Sector Director at Microsoft), Richard Proud (Director and Owner of risual) and Stewart Towe CBE (Chairman of The Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership)

The risual Microsoft Academy will offer digital skills training for students using the latest Microsoft technology, specialist qualifications and industry experts in order to improve their digital literacy skills and boost their career prospects. The IT hub will also enable the college to train more IT apprentices and upskill staff at businesses across the region to ensure employers have the skills they need to grow.

The Microsoft Academy at Walsall College is only the fourth one to open in the UK as part of risual education’s plans to roll out 39 academies over the next three years, with one exclusively in each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area of the UK.

The Walsall College risual Academy has received significant investment in the latest IT equipment from Microsoft and has been decorated by renowned artists Graffiti Kings to mirror the style of risual’s headquarters at Staffordshire Technology Park.

Assistant Principal for Commercial Development at Walsall College, James Norris, said: “Our collaboration with industry experts to launch this new risual Microsoft Academy addresses the skills shortages in growth areas identified by the Local Enterprise Partnership and will provide a high-tech, exciting learning environment for IT apprentices. It will also offer Microsoft qualifications to enhance students and employees’ digital literacy and create a highly skilled workforce for local businesses, whilst supporting the development of IT skills for the region.

“Our aim is to provide a clear route from education to employment and this new academy will only help to enhance the employability of our learners and apprentices, and therefore provide employers with the skills they need to improve their competitive edge.

“Launching the academy during Walsall Business Week also signifies our commitment, along with other members of Walsall Economic Board who are this week, all making pledges to ensure that as a collective we work to sustain economic growth in the region.”

Stewart Towe CBE, Chairman of The Black Country LEP, commented: “Opening a centre of excellence for IT in the Black Country region is a fantastic step forward in further removing any barriers to economic expansion we may face, by providing people with the core skills needed by the industry today and in the future. Looking ahead and addressing the skills agenda by facilitating improvement, will ensure the region remains at the forefront of growth creation.”

Richard Proud, Director and Owner of risual, said: “We are excited to be working with Walsall College and providing students with high level skills that will enable them to build successful careers for themselves. This model of working with colleges has already had a great impact and added significant value to the regions where we set up academies so far. We are excited about the opportunities that this vibrant and motivating learning environment can bring to Walsall.

“We live in a dynamic world where technology is constantly changing and providing businesses with opportunities to expand, as well as challenges. Essentially in this age, they need individuals with the foundation IT skills to enable their growth, and this is what risual and Microsoft aim to offer with our academies.”

risual have themselves committed to recruiting 60 apprentices over three years, and offer fantastic career opportunities. Richard added: “This partnership with Walsall college gives employers the opportunity to recruit IT apprentices delivered in partnership by a Grade 1 college and an industry expert assessor from risual, with Microsoft relevant qualifications. These skilled apprentices have progressed within risual and other employers can enhance their workforce by offering the same opportunities by pledging apprenticeships.”

Estimates from the Science Council suggest that the IT workforce will grow 39% by 2030 and a report from O2 stated that around 745,000 additional workers with digital skills would be needed to meet demands between now and 2017. However figures show that insufficient IT apprenticeship vacancies are being created, with over 10 applicants competing for each vacancy in 2013/14.

Published on Jun 07th 2016



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