In December I had the pleasure of visiting the National Software Academy (NSA) in Newport. Having been aware of the success of the Academy and heard so much about the unique teaching approach I was keen to see the NSA for myself.
The National Software Academy is an exciting initiative by Cardiff University, in partnership with Welsh Government and industry leaders, that is addressing the national shortage of skilled programming and software engineering graduates. On arrival at the NSA, the first thing that struck me was that this is no ordinary University building. The NSA is currently housed in a modern, bright office and co-located with technology-related businesses. This close engagement with industry is key and I met colleagues from industry who had been closely involved in designing the curriculum. The students share large open-plan rooms that encourage interactive and collaborative working.
The NSA is now in its third year of operation and will see its first students graduate this summer. On the day I visited, the second-year students were presenting their projects to their clients, so as well as meeting staff, I was able to meet students and some of the clients they have been working with. The students were very positive about their experiences and enjoyed the teaching approach and the facilities. It was very clear to me that NSA graduates will be highly employable; they will help address the serious shortage of software engineers in the economy of Wales, the UK and globally.
I was very pleased to learn about an exciting proposal under consideration to establish a commercial arm of the National Software Academy. A feasibility study is currently underway but this has great potential, both in terms of servicing internal demand within the University for software, but also to undertake external work on a commercial basis. Another exciting development is a new MSc programme that will launch in September 2018. Again, this will seek to address the shortage of software engineers by offering a conversion programme for graduates from other STEM disciplines to move into this highly dynamic and multi-faceted industry.
Whilst in Newport I was able to view the much larger facility located on the city centre side of Newport station, which the NSA will move to in Summer 2018. The new premises, currently occupied by Newport City Council, will provide an excellent basis for the NSA to deliver their ambitious growth plans and to ensure an even better student experience.
If you would like to learn more about the NSA please visit: www.cardiff.ac.uk/software-academy