Australia's understaffed IT industry received a boost on Thursday with the launch of a new IT undergraduate degree developed by Microsoft, Deakin University and Com Tech Education Services.
The course, Bachelor of Computing Technologies (Networking), is the first program where students will not only earn a Bachelor degree but also industry certification as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), officials said.
It is also the first time government has collaborated with the private sector to address the ongoing IT skills crisis, Steve Ross, general manager for Com Tech Education Services, said.
"Alone, neither the government nor companies are doing enough . . . this is commercial organisations and government getting together to close the skills gap," he said.
Ross said one of the drivers for developing the program was the limited number of computer science degree positions currently available in Australia.
"With 10 per cent of IT jobs unfilled, and the expected demand for new IT&T jobs in Australia to rise from 31,460 to over 180,000 jobs between June 2000 and June 2004, it is imperative that we take an aggressive and integrated approach to recruiting more students and giving them relevant IT skills," Ross said.
"The market says we need people with degrees and skills."
According to Ross, between 300 and 500 positions will be open to qualified students nationally from January next year.
The three-year degree, which also incorporates two years of on-the-job training, comprises a range of curricula and skills provided by Com Tech and Deakin University.
The course will be delivered via distance education and instructor-led training conducted at Com Tech's industry training centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Ross said.
Students will complete an intensive 12-month study program during the first year and will then be placed in full-time positions in companies for the remaining two years of the degree.
According to Ross, the course is limited to providing Microsoft accreditation, but this represents some of the most widely demanded industry skills, he said.
He said it was unlikely other vendor accreditation would be added to the program.
Alison Dodd, Microsoft national education market manager, also agreed that the course will alleviate the skills shortage.
"The shortage issue is the number-one issue for everyone . . . graduates are not necessarily meeting the required skills," she said.
According to Dodd, this course is the first time the MSCE accreditation has been offered in its entirety. Graduating students will be qualified to take positions at businesses ranging from small startups to large corporates.
A preliminary course will begin in September 2000 for a limited number of students.