For many students in higher education, finding a job after graduation is one of their biggest concerns. And, in an era of digital transformation, students studying technology want to ensure they have the up-to-date cloud skills that employers need. So, how can a new graduate make sure they have the right skills—skills that stand out in the job market? Microsoft Learn for Educators works with faculty at colleges, universities, community colleges, and polytechnics around the globe, in over 85 countries, to come up with innovative, cloud-focused courses of study aligned to industry-recognized Microsoft Certifications. This helps to give students a head start on their careers after they graduate.
At the University of Lincoln, a public research university in Lincoln, England, faculty developed a master’s degree (MSc) program in cloud computing designed to equip students with the cutting-edge skills required by the fast-growing cloud computing industry. The university partnered with Microsoft to augment the degree paths already available to students with Microsoft curriculum, certification training, and teaching materials for the faculty to help their students prepare to enter the workforce as cloud-ready professionals.
Integrating Microsoft Certification into the master’s degree program
Under the guidance of program leader Dr. Derek Foster, Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science, students at the University of Lincoln can earn an MSc in cloud computing and gain in-demand skills for professional roles, including cloud developer, solution architect, DevOps technologist, and data specialist. The groundbreaking program balances computer science principles with industry best practices for cloud computing. It integrates training on Microsoft fundamentals and associate certifications with the goal of providing a pipeline of skilled graduates who are industry-prepared and cloud-ready.
Students in the program gain a rigorous conceptual and practical understanding of state-of-the-art, scalable cloud systems. Dr. Foster is excited about the way that the program enhances his students’ chances for making an immediate difference in the field of cloud computing. He observes, “The MSc in cloud computing will equip graduates with the skills they need to succeed in their chosen cloud career. Students will learn how to create and deploy cutting-edge cloud technologies, so they are equipped to take on roles such as cloud data engineer or cloud administrator.”
Higher education works to close the cloud skills gap
The Microsoft Cloud Skills Report: Closing the Cloud Skills Chasm sounded the alarm throughout industry and across higher education that there is a scarcity of qualified cloud professionals ready to meet the challenges that organizations face as digital transformation reshapes industry. Dr. Foster and other computer science educators realize that to successfully build a pipeline of future talent, they need to not only offer rigorous technical training but also to engage with industry, so their graduates have the sought-after skills that industry requires. In Cloud computing: developing contemporary computer science curriculum for a cloud-first future, Dr. Foster and his co-authors set out their vision for new approaches to curricula that best prepare their students for supporting the needs of industry. Now, students who earn Microsoft Certifications at the University of Lincoln can validate their skills and have a résumé that sets them apart from other graduates.
How it works: Earning certifications for academic credit
The program offers Microsoft Certifications for academic credit. The faculty carefully maps academic course outcomes to certification outcomes. At least one Microsoft Certification is offered to students in the program each semester. In fact, the University of Lincoln is adding the following Microsoft Certifications to its program:
Setting up the employer pipeline
The University of Lincoln is also working with local and regional organizations to develop pathways for its students into cloud careers using its master’s program and targeted graduate goals. One example of a successful partnership is with Elastacloud, a company that builds data platform solutions using data science and AI. The organization developed its Cloudgrads program, which provides services for businesses seeking graduates who have the skills they need for implementing the Azure platform powered by agile and DevOps.
Richard Conway, CEO of Elastacloud reports, “We’re proud to collaborate in partnership with Lincoln University to support the development of a highly skilled graduate pipeline as part of our graduate recruitment program. Lincoln’s cloud computing program enables students to develop themselves to begin a career in the fast-growing cloud sector.”
Preparing for the future
Dr. Foster and his academic and industry collaborators are continuing to spread the word about business and academic partnerships – like theirs with Microsoft Learn for Educators and Elastacloud – that offer students the opportunity to develop the skill sets needed for cloud-based services, in addition to preparing them for a cloud era that includes the internet of things (IoT) and cybersecurity. In Toward a Cloud Computing Learning Community, these leaders examine the possibility of creating a model curriculum, and they provide guidance to educators about cloud computing skill sets sought in the job market. They also report on a community platform designed to host cloud learning resources. If their efforts are any indication, these are exciting times to be a student in the computer sciences—especially at the University of Lincoln.