AN UBER driver, a project manager, cleaners, security staff and a hospital porter sit alongside an astrophysicist and a graphic designer. Meet a first cohort of students at the South Central Institute of Technology, based at the Milton Keynes College campus in Bletchley.
The pandemic is bringing enormous changes, with many deciding that now is the time for a change in career direction. The economic upheaval is focusing minds on the future and the newly opened IoT has created technology courses that are on offer nowhere else in the UK.
The courses focus on the emerging technologies: the Internet of Things; Big Data and Visualisation; Virtual and Augmented Reality; the fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence; 3-D sculpting.
“We realised there were a lot of skills which were not being covered in the existing curriculum so we decided we needed to put together experiences which are truly relevant to today’s business needs,” says head of curriculum Laura Marulanda-Carter.
“We are sharing the modules we have produced nationally so eventually other colleges around the country will be able to pick up on them. But, for now at least, the SCIoT is the only place in Britain where they can be studied in this way.
“Of course, we combine all these with the employability skills which are also so much in need like team working, good workplace communication and so on. So we can help people become really well-rounded employees.”
Several new parents are among the first intake of students, all looking to make a step-change in their employment prospects. “Obviously, a lot of people have lost jobs or see their existing work as pretty precarious and realise this is the ideal moment to retrain,” says Laura.
“Where once there were tech companies and non-tech companies, virtually all businesses have digital needs nowadays and people are catching on to the benefits of getting trained to fill those yawning skills gaps.”
Research into the jobs market carried out for the SCIoT by economic modelling experts Emsi found that digital job growth in the area serviced by the SCIoTgrew by 21% in the period 2010-20, outpacing job growth across the country as a whole.
Student Laura Featherstone works for a technology company and has completed a part-time course in data analytics. “I wanted to learn some new skills but it was important to be able to fit my studies around my job so the Institute of Technology was the ideal option.
“The course I have been doing will help me reach my goal of joining our sales operations working in the data team.
“Everything I have done here has been really relevant to my working life, especially the assignments where I had to solve real-life industry problems.”
The new courses have now been taken up by educational publishers Pearson, which worked alongside the SCIoT to produce them. “We share the government’s ambition for IoTs to drive the required growth for higher-level technical education (level 4 and 5 – such as Higher Nationals), providing employers with a skilled workforce and students with a clear line of sight to highly skilled employment,” says Jane Baker, Pearson’s vice president for high education qualifications.
“We were delighted to work with the South Central Institute of Technology to design these qualifications, alongside their employer partners. The development of this qualification has been truly collaborative, resulting in an innovative Higher National qualification, designed to meet employer needs.”
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