New computer science degree apprenticeship launched

The first ever cohort of students has been welcomed on to a new computer science degree apprenticeship launched in partnership with the University.

Computing PhD researcher, Wissam Bejjani (far left), and post-doctoral researcher, Luis Figuerdo (far right), explain to Jon Andrews and Ian Morrison, from PwC, how Baxter the robot is used in their research

Computing PhD researcher, Wissam Bejjani (far left), and post-doctoral researcher, Luis Figuerdo (far right), explain to Jon Andrews and Ian Morrison from PwC how Baxter the robot is used in their research. October 2018

Leeds has teamed up with PwC – the global professional services firm and one of the UK’s largest graduate employers – to launch the programme, aimed at growing the next generation of technology talent.

Welcoming the 36 students at the University’s School of Computing on Tuesday 16 October, PwC’s Head of Technology, Jon Andrews, and Professor Peter Jimack, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, spoke to the group about their role in developing future skills and ideas for an increasingly digital world. 

The innovative degree programme will see the students combining university life with practical work-based technology projects. The four-year course has been developed by PwC and the University, and successful candidates will work with PwC as they study on their degree programme.

The initiative is one of the first and largest examples of the new Level 6 Degree Apprenticeships in action. Students will be PwC employees from day one and will be paid a salary throughout their course. At the end of the programme, those meeting the performance criteria of both the University and PwC will earn a degree in Computer Science and will continue their career at PwC.

The apprenticeship has been designed to help address the UK’s technology skills gap and improve the industry’s diversity. Getting more women interested in technology careers is also a key focus, as is raising awareness of the programme among students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Professor Jimack said: “We are passionate about providing our students with the best opportunities and experiences possible to prepare them for the world of employment. 

“The University welcomes the brightest students from all backgrounds, and believes in the importance of a research-led education to give them the critical and practical skills they will need after graduation – supporting them and their future employers in dealing with important societal challenges, and to help them to continue to be successful. 

“By providing this distinctive combination of education, training and experience, PwC and the University will help to address the UK’s technology skills gap and improve diversity in key roles in our most important businesses. We are proud to be instrumental in educating the industry’s future talent.”

Following the launch, the visitors were taken on a tour of the School of Computing’s research work, which included a talk by Senior Lecturer, Dr Hamish Carr, about his research area, meeting Baxter the Robot in University Academic Fellow Dr Mehmet Dogar’s lab, and seeing a driving simulator in Professor Jie Xu’s lab, as well as demonstrations by PhD researchers.

Mr Andrews said: “If we are serious about upskilling for the wave of digital disruption we are seeing today and expecting in the future, we need to recruit and train people in innovative ways, tapping into and nurturing talent we might not otherwise reach. 

“Our technology degree apprenticeships are designed to meet this challenge. The students here in Leeds are a new wave of talent that will bring crucial skills, different ideas and new perspectives to UK business. We need to invest to create a vibrant tech sector right across the country and ensure those benefits are evenly spread.”

Ian Morrison, PwC’s Yorkshire and North East Regional Leader, added: “With a growing specialist tech team here in Leeds, we are opening up the opportunities to people who may have thought that university or technology careers were potentially out of their reach.”

Read more about the degree apprenticeship on the University website.

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