LONDON Microsoft have been working with the University of Westminster, Aberysthwyth University, London Metropolitan University, the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Lancaster in order to address the shortage of graduates considering embedded software development
A number of workshops have been run to bring academia and industry together with Microsoft providing a number of free .Net Micro Framework kits to encourage potential students.
Microsoft says the embedded consumer device market will expand at a rate of 50 percent per year between 2006 and 2010 – making the shortage of graduates critical.
With the U.K, market developing at five to eight times the national growth average, around 150,000 new entrants to the IT workforce are required each year. However, at present the demand for graduates with relevant skills far outstrips the supply. This issue is especially problematic in the embedded developer industry, a growth sector where employers are finding it increasing difficult to find skilled entry level employees.
In the U.K., Microsfit believes a major contributor to this problem is the lack of interest in IT as a career option. Computing related jobs are no longer considered desirable, as evidenced by the declining number of students taking computer science related options. There was a 43 percent drop in the number of students taking computing A-Levels in 2001-2006, resulting in fewer students going on to take IT related degrees.
Few academic institutions specifically teach software development for embedded devices and this leaves the embedded industry facing investments of time and money to train up graduates before they become productive.
“There is currently a huge gap between the skills that students are picking up through their studies and the skills that employers are looking for,” said Alan Rowe, Windows Embedded Business Unit Director at MPC data. “We would definitely encourage universities and industry to collaborate more closely, with a view to incorporating practical embedded development skills into their syllabuses.”
To start bridging this gap between industry and academia, Microsoft has been offering embedded technology and design software to faculties as part of its Embedded Academic Outreach Programme. Workshops have provided a forum for debate between academics and industry bodies as to how they can work together to raise awareness of embedded development and equip graduates with the skills they will need to enter the workforce.
Building on the success of the U.K. initiative, Microsoft launched a global program for academics and enthusiasts called SPARK, aimed at bringing a complete offering of hardware and software to nonprofessional developers. In the UK this will be supported through the Embedded Academic Outreach Programme.