A foundation degree course will launch at colleges in England this autumn aimed at boosting sought-after tech skills and addressing the nation's IT skills gap.
The part-time Computer Systems Management foundation degree, which has been developed by computer maker HP in collaboration with Thames Valley University (TVU), where it has been piloted since 2006, will furnish students with HP Certified Professional accreditation in 14 areas across a range of disciplines, including sales, planning and design.
The degree also offers students the chance to gain "commercial awareness" and "skills they would not expect from a standard degree course", according to HP.
HP said the course has been specifically designed for part-time students — those who sign up will attend college for either one evening per week or alternate Saturdays — enabling people already in full-time employment to complete the degree over a two-year period.
In addition, students will also need to attend four three-day residential courses per year, where they will take the HP element of the course.
On completing their two years of study, students have the option of progressing to a final year in order to complete a full BSc Honours degree.
Professor Andy Smith, head of the school of computing at TVU, said in a statement: "The number of school leavers entering full-time courses in computing has halved in recent years. This is in contrast to research that suggests that 163,000 new employees will be needed in the IT profession by 2016."
"Without significant action, either more jobs will be lost through outsourcing abroad, or the nation's business as a whole will suffer major problems relying on IT infrastructures," said Smith.
TVU's sites in Ealing and Reading will offer the foundation course, along with 11 education establishments around the UK which, according to HP's research of the market, are in locations where prospective students already live and work.
These are: Bury College; Canterbury College; Chichester College; Tresham Institute, Kettering; Sandwell College; Somerset College of Arts and Technology; New College, Swindon; Stockport College; Stratford-upon-Avon College; City of Sunderland College; and Weymouth College.
Mike Bicknell, business development manager for HP's Solution Partner Organisation, added in a statement: "Working towards closing the IT skills gap, the foundation degree is a result of more than three years collaboration between HP and TVU. We are excited with the new delivery of a degree where both the needs of employers and the academic structure will be met."
HP is not the only IT employer to get involved with building up the skills it needs to fuel its business in the UK. Microsoft recently announced an ICT scheme in the West Midlands to tailor training to local skills needs.
Hybrid IT/business courses have also been championed by technology industry skills body e-skills UK, which most recently supported the creation of an Information Technology Management for Business degree which combines technology learning with business skills such as project management.
The first students to take that course graduated last month.