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Closing technology skills gap to; Multi-million pound scheme aims to support local businesses with employee IT training, work experience and student development projects to help boost growth and innovation.

SOFTWARE Alliance Wales (SAW) is a PS13.4m initiative designed to help Welsh businesses maximise their potential for exploiting Information Communication Technologies (ICT).

It can also provide specific support to the software development sector to address skills, competitiveness and key business challenges.

It is funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.

Technology is rapidly changing the face of business in Wales, thanks to pioneering ICT companies drawing on home-grown talent and businesses across the board, finding smart new ways of working. SAW brings together experts from five universities across Wales, with a background in information communication technologies and computer science.

These highly experienced individuals are supporting the next phase of technological growth, helping new and established technology companies attract and retain the software developers and other IT professionals needed to succeed both at home and on the global stage.

Since 2009, Software Alliance Wales has been working to address the IT skills gap, offering training courses to help upskill and reskill employees to ensure businesses have access to a growing pool of talent with the high-level IT skills required to grow sustainably.

Dr Neal Harman, Software Alliance Wales Project Director at the Department of Computer Science, Swansea University, said: "Swansea University, in collaboration with Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, University of South Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David are engaged on a project that offers a diverse portfolio of services, designed to increase knowledge and skills, including, continuous professional development (CPD), IT company accreditation (CompTIA), student development projects and ICT workshops for SME business leaders."

He added: "This is in addition to providing support, opportunities and funding to technology businesses, IT professionals, graduates and computer science students across Wales' convergence area. The diverse portfolio allows employers and their employees to harness the skills, network and share best practice."

Recognising the competitiveness of the marketplace, SAW also works closely with the global IT industry association, CompTIA, to encourage smaller technology businesses and consultants to undertake a 'health check' to help them earn the coveted CompTIA IT Business Trustmark that acknowledges that the business owner is ticking the right boxes to sustain, or grow, their business.

By working with the vendors, distributors and solution providers in the IT channel, SAW also aims to help those recognised as 'best in class' to earn the prestigious CompTIA Accredit UK Trustmark+ - a benchmark for technology organisations wishing to prove their business excellence, adherence to industry best practice and commitment to continuous business improvement and sustainable growth.

Through independent assessment and rigorous auditing, new and prospective customers can be assured that the accredited ICT company meets stringent industry standards and has strong and proven credentials in the development and delivery of solutions and services.

Commenting on the IT skills gap, Dr Harman said: "IT is critical to almost all parts of business - with many businesses being unable to exist without it. While the quality of education and the growing pool of tech talent already present here in Wales is encouraging, the widely acknowledged IT skills gap is set to get bigger as demand for skilled resources increases."

He added: "The challenge remains for Software Alliance Wales to provide a platform for further growth and skills transfer; working with entrepreneurs, tech start-ups, IT companies, Welsh universities and other established businesses, to upskill our home-grown talent to meet the growing and fast-changing demands of the global market."

Focussing on the significant number of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in Wales, Professor Andrew Ware, University of South Wales, said: "Many of these businesses already make use of computer software in a reasonably effective and thorough way.

Nonetheless, the rate at which software innovation is progressing and the ability to ascertain its true potential for impacting how businesses operate, is far beyond many such businesses, that have a myriad of demands upon them, without the help of specialist practitioners and trainers."

Software Alliance Wales, he explained, afforded the opportunity for businesses to work with its Business Liaison Officers to identify real needs within the enterprise that might be met through the deployment of software-based solutions, or through the training of staff to more effectively use an existing software system.

Commenting on the importance of a skilled workforce and of practical

CAPTION(S):

Dr Sa'ad Mansoor

Professor Chris Price

Dr Neal Harman

Professor Andrew Ware

Software Alliance Wales can provide support, opportunities and funding to technology businesses, IT professionals, graduates and computer science students across Wales
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 10, 2014
Words:740
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