"Today's partnership between Microsoft and City amp; Guilds signifies the culmination of a two-year development programme between the two organisations," said Neil Holloway, managing director of Microsoft Ltd.
It has been agreed that people who use IT in the workplace, and who are taking the e-Quals series of courses, will be eligible to take Microsoft's MOUS qualifications without the need for further training. The appropriate modules of the e-Quals course have been enhanced to ensure they cover everything required for MOUS compliance.
Microsoft sees plenty of room for increasing the uptake of its MOUS qualification, which is designed around the use of its own application software, such as MS Word. The new package means people can arrive on the job market carrying both awards. Until recently, the two sets of qualifications have effectively been in competition because they are similar in content.
"The City amp; Guilds' e-Quals course will now fully prepare IT trainees to immediately sit a MOUS examination without additional MOUS training," said a spokesman for City amp; Guilds. "The agreement will open up access to IT qualifications, encourage more candidates to enter the industry, and broaden the skills base. The partnership will help address the current skills gap among the UK's 1.25 million IT professionals."
Around 9,000 businesses anticipate difficulty filling IT positions, according to e-skills, the industry's National Training Organisation, and 17,000 businesses admit around half their it professionals are less than proficient.
While the e-QualsMOUS package is aimed at workplace users, rather than the IT specialists who run systems, City amp; Guilds believes the deal will improve the skill levels of people currently at level 2 and 3 in the IT industry.
"Skills shortages are a significant problem for the IT industry," said Chris Humphries, director general of City amp; Guilds. "It is our objective to provide qualifications that meet the needs of industry and the needs of candidates. Joining forces with Microsoft is an effective way of achieving this goal."
The e-Quals awards are the only ones of their kind to be funded through the Learning and Skills Council, so the partnership effectively means the popular Microsoft qualification can be bolted on, without the need to train privately on a separate course.