University Centre Leeds has become the first educational institution in Yorkshire to gain approval to use a prestigious new quality mark.
Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ) accreditation is designed to help employers know which courses have a proven record of producing graduates with ‘work-ready’ skills.
HTQs are part of the government’s drive to make higher technical education a more prestigious and popular choice, and can only be attached to courses whose providers demonstrate that they meet a range of industry-focused criteria.
Stamp of quality for industry-driven courses
University Centre Leeds (UC Leeds), which is a member of Luminate Education Group, had to go through a rigorous process to show how its courses were linking with employers and giving the students the knowledge, behaviour and skills they needed to be ‘employment-ready’.
That hard work has paid off and UC Leeds has now become the first educational establishment in Yorkshire to gain approval to use the new quality mark, initially with three of its digital foundation courses.
Cyber Security, Software Development and Computer Science courses will all be able to use the HTQ status from September, 2022.
Dean of Higher Education at UC Leeds, Janet Faulkner, said: “The HTQ accreditation is an endorsement of the quality of our courses.
“The approval process is rigorous and not only ensures the calibre of our courses but also that they meet employer needs.”
Producing business-ready graduates
She added: “To be accredited as HTQs, the courses have to be developed in consultation with employers to ensure that they are developing the right knowledge, skills and behaviours. This involved discussions regarding both content and assessment methods, to ensure that students could hit the ground running when they went into employment.
“HTQs are very much skills and behaviours focused and are about applying the knowledge in ways that prepare them for the workplace.
“The accreditation has involved a lot of detailed mapping against national occupational standards and consultation with employers; hard work but worth it, because the process has led us to adapting our courses to make them even better.
“As a result of this, we now have three courses which have the HTQ quality mark endorsing their quality and relevance to employers.”
Addressing a recognised skills shortage
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) estimates that the digital technology sector is currently worth £6.6 billion to the Leeds City Region – and employs 102,000 people.
In a local skills report produced by the WYCA in March 2021, however, it was noted that ‘our region’s digital sector is growing more rapidly than the skills base can keep up with’.
The report goes on to say that ‘there is potential for widespread skills gaps to open up over the next decade’.
UC Leeds’s digital courses have been tailored to help plug that gap and give learners the skills and vocational focus that will help them and the economy flourish.
Having HTQ status for the Cyber Security, Computer Science and Software Development foundation courses will make those ‘business-ready’ credentials plain for all to see – and so offer a clear competitive advantage.
Added value for employers and students
Head of HE Digital/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at UC Leeds, Tim Balmforth, said: “This quality mark will set us apart from our competitors and demonstrate our commitment to providing digital professionals who are work-ready, with the skills employers are looking for.
“These HTQ are in line with University Centre Leeds’s commitment to the STEM strategy, alongside the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) priorities, and the predicted and current shortfalls in skills in the area.
“The latest LEP labour market report has highlighted a shortage of core technical skills, and more specifically a shortage of software developers and testers, support specialists and web developers. Data analyst, network engineering and cyber security jobs are also on the increase locally and nationally.
“Our HTQs are designed to equip our students with these in-demand skills.”
Specific HTQs are mapped to different degrees that have been found to meet the required educational standards.
In UC Leeds’s case, this involved mapping a set of standards in data analysis, cyber security, software development, software testing and networking to the three foundation degrees.
The Cyber Security, Software Development and Computer Science Foundation Degrees at UC Leeds are designed to give students the technical and analytical skills they need to tackle everything from thwarting online crime to supporting electronic banking.
All three courses have also benefited from having substantial input from employers.
HTQs are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. For more details about courses at UC Leeds visit ucleeds.ac.uk/our-courses/.