Universities team up with Microsoft to give students the skills that employers really want

Three universities have become the first in the UK to sign Shared Goal Agreements with Microsoft, which aim to equip students with digital skills that employers are looking for.

Students enrolled in those universities will benefit from courses focused on areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data science, while also having access to LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft’s AI Business School and technology learning courses, GitHub and industry certifications. It will also allow students to build critical non-technical skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

The three universities that have signed Shared Goal Agreements and will work closely with Microsoft are Nottingham Trent University (NTU), University of Lincoln and University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE) has also signed a Shared Goal Agreement with Microsoft.

They all share a joint vision with Microsoft to ready students for the future and bring the best of technology and learning together to support students and educators.

NTU, which oversees more than 30,000 students, signed the document during a Teams call with Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Education at Microsoft. The university said the tie-up would allow it to “pioneer new methods of learning and teaching to improve students’ experiences”, offer students “a high level of digital competence and confidence” and “embrace digital innovation.”

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More than 149 million new technology jobs are expected to be created worldwide in the next five years. A report by the UK government, released last year, revealed that “digital skills are near-universal requirements” and “are required in at least 82% of online advertised openings across the UK”.

“Employers indicate that about one-third of vacancies they find difficult to fill are, to some degree, attributable to a lack of appropriate digital skills amongst applicants,” the report stated, adding that a person with digital skills is also more likely to progress their career and receive a higher salary.

University of Lincoln, which teaches around 18,000 students, plans to use the Shared Goal Agreement with Microsoft to grow its cloud computing programme, align with local business needs and help students become more employable. It is planning to launch a Masters degree in Cloud Computing next year.

Derek Foster, Associate Professor in Computer Science at the university, said: “Being able to work with a company like Microsoft and bring their technology and solutions into our classrooms is very exciting for us. We will be able to upskill our students using the latest digital services, embedding those into our curriculum to create a cutting-edge blend of industry and education.

University of Lincoln teaches around 18,000 students

“Adding Microsoft to our growing list of industry partners creates huge benefits for our students, who will gain skills that are desperately needed by businesses in the local area. We’ve seen lots of demand for courses on cloud computing and Azure Fundamentals and we are delighted to be able to work with Microsoft to provide those to our students.”

UWTSD has campuses in Swansea, Carmarthen, Lampeter  and London, and learning centres in Cardiff and Birmingham. It is working with Microsoft to upskill students to enhance employability, support the post-COVID recovery in Wales through high-level skills development, and introduce new and innovative approaches to learning. It also plans to offer the Azure Fundamentals course to all students.

James Cale, Director of Digital Services at UWTSD, said: “This agreement with Microsoft will enable our university to deliver cutting-edge digital content to our students in a very simple way. Courses on the cloud, AI and data will be available to our students, so they can be prepared for new roles and jobs now and in the future. That involves embedding a range of technical and non-technical courses from Microsoft Learn in our curriculum to give them accreditation from Microsoft as well as from UWTSD.

“Microsoft and UWTSD share a clear vision and common goals to empower and upskill our students, particularly in digital skills, to enhance their employability, support the post COVID recovery of employment in Wales through high level skills development and the introduction of innovative and flexible approaches to learning.”

Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Education at Microsoft

Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Education at Microsoft, said: “In every industry and in markets around the world, we are seeing increased demand for skills talent and hiring across our partners, our suppliers and customers. From experience, we know that working in tandem with leading educational institutions and educational systems of the world to provide access to skills resources, relevant industry-based learning content and assessment solutions is a winning formula for students, the workforce and drive the digital economy across the UK.”

The full list of services available to universities includes LinkedIn Learning, MS Learn, Azure for Students, Azure Lab Services, GitHub, AI Business School, industry certifications, Microsoft Learn LTI App, Microsoft Learn for Educators Programme, Microsoft Imagine Academy Skills Benefit, Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors, the Imagine Cup and Microsoft Office Specialist Championships.

Microsoft hopes that these are the first of many Shared Goal Agreements with higher education institutions across the world.

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