woman using Microsoft surface tablet in classroom

New academies to tackle serious digital skills gap in UK

A series of new academies will be opened to tackle the serious digital skills gap across the UK, amid demand from companies for more computer-literate staff.

Five Microsoft and Risual academies are to be unveiled across the UK, with the first located in Derby, as part of a partnership with IT services company Risual and a select group of colleges.

It comes after Go.on, an organisation that encourages people to use technology, found that 23% of adults in the UK – an estimated 12.6 million – lack the five basic digital skills – the ability to manage personal information without phoning a more technically able relative, being able to communicate online, managing financial data including making payments, solving problems and the ability to create things with imaging tools.


Cardiff and Vale College is the first Microsoft and Risual academy in Wales, which has the lowest levels of internet access in the UK and poor knowledge of digital skills, on average.

The Welsh academy, at Cardiff and Vale College’s landmark £45m City Centre Campus in the Cardiff Central Enterprise Zone, will aim to boost students’ existing tech skills to create a digitally literate workforce for businesses across the region. Pupils will also earn Microsoft qualifications via workshops with industry experts and have the chance to land apprenticeships with Microsoft units.

Steve Beswick, Senior Director for Education and Charities at Microsoft UK, said: “Digital skills are vital to building a vibrant economy both now and in the future. We are delighted to be working with Cardiff and Vale College and Risual to open this Academy, which will be a centre of digital excellence and inspiration for students, teachers and employers in Cardiff and beyond.”


With the digital sector worth more than £600 million to the Welsh economy and making up 6% of the total UK economy, the Microsoft Academy will provide much-needed digital skills to employers across the country.

Mike James, Principal and Chief Executive of Cardiff and Vale College, added: “The launch of this innovative academy will be of vast benefit to not only our students, apprentices and staff but also to the employers of the City Region. Our aim is to tackle the skills gap seen on a national level and create a real hub for digital skills growth right across the South East Wales City Region and beyond.

“By working with employers to highlight digital skills requirements in their businesses and across sectors we can collaboratively plan for the development of future skills, so we are truly delivering tomorrow’s skills needs, today. We want to use this academy and our status as a Risual Microsoft Academy to generate a buzz about careers in this vital sector among the future workforce; highlighting it is a well-paid and exciting sector offering long-term careers.”


Alun Rogers, Director and Co-owner of Risual, said he was excited about what the academies could achieve.

“This new partnership will provide industry relevant IT apprenticeships and youth employment opportunities, as well as providing employers access to Microsoft qualifications to upskill their existing staff.”

Julie James, Welsh Minister for Skills and Science, added: “Digital skills are vital in the modern workforce. We know high growth is forecast in specialist roles, in particular web design and developers, programmers and software specialists to name a few.

“Supporting and listening to our employers in ensuring the right qualifications are available to develop and retrain our current workforce is fundamental to keep ahead in such fast paced environment.”