The shortage of IT developers is a substantial challenge for Swedish companies. According to calculations from the Swedish branch organization, IT & Telecom companies, there is a shortfall of 70,000 software developers in Sweden in 2017, and this lack of IT resources is threatening business growth. This is also the case for the European Union as a whole, but with more dramatic numbers on the excess demand. While there is a significant shortage of workers in this area, at the same time there is a high unemployment rate among newly arrived in Sweden (through voluntary or involuntary migration). Some of them have university degrees or similar industry experiences on their CVs. Usually, the time from getting a permanent residence permit to finding a job at the right skill level is counted in years. This creates a demotivating situation for newly arrived to Sweden and a less effective use of workforce resources for the society.
This is where the Software Development Academy (SDA), founded by Mattias Wiggberg and Philipp Haller from KTH Royal Institute of Technology (a university) and Farzad Golchin from Novare Potential (a recruitment consultancy), contributes to both these challenges.
For people with the right prerequisites it is possible to carry out an intensive training with about 500 hours of programming teaching and practice during a relatively short period of time, that is, 3--5 months. This is sufficient to meet the skills requirements for a large part of the services where Swedish companies currently have resource shortages.
The overall aim with the project is to prepare newcomers to Sweden to become employable in the rapidly expanding IT sector in Sweden and give them the possibility to be employed in a sector where the demand is high. To make sure that the education is relevant for the needs of the job market, the aim is also to involve a number of employers in the project, making sure the contents of the education fit their needs, and thereby increasing the chances of employment directly after the education. The education part of the project is organized and implemented by teachers from the ordinary undergraduate and Master's programs in computer science. In parallel with the IT training, an extensive job matching is conducted by the recruitment consultancy. The candidates are also provided with training in soft skills and workplace culture.
The results from this unique approach and collaboration between academia and industry is quite astonishing:
- The three first iterations, SDA1-3, has 68 participants finished the program. Among those, 72 percent are in relevant IT-jobs (the ratio is increasing with time).
- 28 different nationalities has been present during the SDA-iterations so far.
- The current cost producing a participant seat on the program is low, 4600 euros. The participants does not pay for the program and receive access to laptop, books etc. for free.
- The ratio of female participants was 42% (SDA1) at the beginning of the programme and is now (SDA4) 54%. This might be the most equal computer science program at a Swedish University (the normal figure for Swedish Universities computer science programs are circa 20 percent women).
- SDA4 is running in fall 2018 and SDA5-12 is planned until 2022. This means that at least 360 newcomers will finish the program. There is also a work ongoing to spread the program to other Swedish universities that will increase the number of possible participants highly.
Initially a pilot, SDA1 in 2017, was seed funded with circa 0,2 million euros by the a private fund Wallenbergstiftelserna. Since then, additional 2,8 million euros have been raised for the project with Wallenbergstiftelserna, European Social Fund (ESF) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology as the main contributors.
(Parts of this text was previously published as part of the research article: “Agile and Adaptive Learning via the ECK-model in the Software Development Academy” by R. Glassey, P. Haller and M. Wiggberg (the author of the info text on SDA to the Digital Skills Award).
- The project has in only 3 months, moved participants from 100 percent unemployment to 72 percent employed in well-paid positions in the IT-business.
- The tight collaboration between academia and industry is quite unique. Letting the skills needed by industry be a part of the curricula design has for sure contributed to the relevance of the program.
- The matching process, and smooth handover of participants after the program, is another key factor for the success.
- Another cause for the success is the possibility to adopt, and invent, new teaching methods.
- The agile organization approach has also been beneficial to develop the program. A part of this has been to introduce a core skill based approach to staff in the program. Teachers can hence spend more time teaching and less time on administration.
- Participants´ progress is monitored daily/weekly which means that we can adjust the training to their individual needs. This is needed in order to keep the learning pace high.