The wonder of AI certificate

Microsoft, New College Lanarkshire and West College Scotland team up to give students industry-certified digital qualifications

Microsoft has teamed up with two Scottish colleges to develop nationally-recognised qualifications which will equip students with the key tools needed for the workplaces of tomorrow.

The qualifications, which are the first of their kind created jointly by the technology company and Scots colleges, in collaboration with Education Scotland, aim to boost students’ digital capabilities and equip them with experience relevant to the modern business world.

The courses, which were launched on Tuesday, October 4 at New College Lanarkshire’s campus in Coatbridge, include multiple Microsoft professional certifications.

‘Digital Business Decision Making’ will equip students with business-focused expertise for all office-based roles. Whereas ‘The Wonder of AI and Cloud’ will enable students to build a strong foundation of knowledge in the emerging technologies which are shaping the world of work they will be moving into.

The two new qualifications have been developed by New College Lanarkshire (NCL) and West College Scotland (WCS) in conjunction with Education Scotland and Microsoft. The qualifications will be initially rolled out at NCL, WCS and associated secondary schools and will be available to all other schools and colleges in Scotland to provide successful students with certifications recognised by employers.

To support the roll out, guides have been developed by Microsoft for both students and parents to provide them with all the information they need when deciding what to study in the next school year.

The qualifications aim to address the fast-changing world of work by giving students the capabilities they need to excel. Computer Science courses traditionally attract students from a narrow demographic, possibly due to the fact they are so focused on coding and syntax.

Professor Christopher Moore, Principal of New College Lanarkshire said: “This is an exciting collaboration with Microsoft which will offer our students the fit-for-purpose skills they need for the workplaces of tomorrow.

“Working so closely with Microsoft has given us a unique opportunity to create relevant and targeted learning opportunities which are nationally recognised and which include professional certifications. That can only be good news for our students as they enter the rapidly-evolving world of employment.”

New College Lanarkshire Campus

New College Lanarkshire Campus

“Working with industry and colleges to develop courses that are geared towards future careers are essential to meeting employer demands in an increasingly digital world,” said Ollie Bray, Strategic Director, Education Scotland. “We need to grow the pipeline of new tech talent with these digital capabilities if we want to close the skills gap and that means attracting a broader mix of students through qualifications like these. We have found these capabilities are an invaluable addition to student’s academic qualifications when they enter the workforce, no matter what industry they choose.”

Qualifications and capabilities sought by employers

The qualifications, titled “The Wonder of AI and Cloud” and “Digital Business Decision Making”, target 16-to-21-year-olds who might have overlooked traditional computer science courses.

The qualifications offer a more contemporary suite of content including capabilities that employers are seeking such as data visualisation. As data is key in so many current job roles Data Science for Beginners or Data Fundamentals have been incorporated into the courses.

Certification content also includes AI and Microsoft Azure, as well as helping students hone specific tech proficiencies in Microsoft’s Office products Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

“It is not just academic qualifications that are being evaluated by prospective employers. There is a need for a combination of these qualifications in conjunction with digital capabilities and professional certifications for those entering the workforce for the first time. With the breadth of subjects education institutes already provide, developing all the content that is needed for digitally-focused qualifications alone was always going to be a challenge. By working with colleges and Education Scotland we have been able to develop all that is needed to deliver digital capabilities that are a vital requirement for all positions,” said Jen Wyatt, Director of Education for Microsoft UK.

Both courses are taught alongside students’ other subjects at the levels of highers and Microsoft provides all the necessary learning materials for students and all teaching materials for educators.

Each course is 160 hours long and runs for the full academic year. Once completed, students will be awarded up to four Microsoft professional certifications, which are valued by employers and headhunters when recruiting. Recent Research showed that a student with a Microsoft professional certification on their LinkedIn profile is 2.4 times more likely to be hired.

Students in a lecture hall

Expanding the student base

According to a survey of secondary school pupils by the University of Edinburgh, computer science courses in Scotland have been steadily declining in popularity. The survey found that some students are turned off the subject because they don’t find it interesting, it isn’t taught in an engaging way, whilst others felt that the equipment provided isn’t up to scratch. Others say they don’t feel they fit the “geeky” stereotype of a computer student.

Ending the digital disconnect

The digital shortfall is already having an impact on industry, where employers are increasingly demanding that first-time hires are digitally confident.

Of the 13,000 entry-level digital positions that come online each year, higher education and apprenticeships only fill approximately 5,000, said ScotlandIS, the country’s digital technology industry organisation.

And research by Microsoft and LinkedIn found that 80% of companies said graduates didn’t have the skills to make them work-ready.

Microsoft believes that by collaborating with colleges and Education Scotland, students can receive tutoring with a more contemporary business perspective and can gain an early insight into emerging trends, platforms and programmes.

By narrowing the disparity between the demand for digital capabilities and the training on offer, Microsoft believes Scottish businesses, job seekers and the wider Scottish economy will all benefit.

Learn more about how colleges and universities can get access to content and build programmes like this with Microsoft.