On the 4th of November, 30 students and their teachers from Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) council in Wales, joined us at the UK Microsoft Campus for their MOS finals competition day. RCT has partnered with Microsoft to provide the Microsoft IT Academy programme to all of its 132 schools in the council, to increase technology skills for both teachers and students and to help prepare students for a career in the 21st Century.
Throughout the day, the students were given the chance to tour the Microsoft UK Campus. This included seeing the XBOX studios, Marketing departments, Windows and Surface offices along with the numerous cafes, breakout areas, games areas and the Windows Experience Room.
At the event the students also sat the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) examinations in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. By studying for these qualifications, students have developed the key ICT skills to help them be more productive with business productivity tools, enhance their employability and CV’s as well as supporting them on the path to lifelong learning. The MOS certifications validate those skills that will help distinguish them from the competition for future employers.
The top three students from each application category received fantastic prizes to take home, such as the Nokia Lumia 1020. The scores the students received were outstanding. Craig Bewley, the CEO of Prodigy Learning, told the students how “impressive their results were, there are few young people who would be able to match their ability!”
RCT’s passion to boost young people’s professional skills was demonstrated through one of their teachers, Paul Greene, winning a prize for his school entering the most students from an institute through the MOS examinations. All of the students present on the day were also entered into the Global MOS World Championships, a brilliant competition where students from around the world compete against each other. Students who make it through to the finals win an all-expenses paid trip to Dallas!
The teachers were also given the chance to be part of interactive sessions with Microsoft employees. In these sessions the teachers learnt about how useful Microsoft’s free resources can be within their lessons. Stuart Ball, Partners in Learning Manager spoke to the teachers about the fun ways they can incorporate technology in the classroom in order to achieve better results. Martyn Silezin, Project Manager for this partnership from RCT said “these sessions have been incredibly beneficial for the staff. It has been great to learn more about the potential of OneNote and OfficeMix within the classroom.”
Students also took part in coding activities. They were given the chance to interact with multiple Windows 8 devices in order to create their own games. Kurt Macey, a student from Treorchy Comprehensive School said “I found the experience really educational. I have never had the chance to learn to program before, so it was a great opportunity. This was my highlight of the day!”
Interns and Apprentices from Microsoft helped to run the event. They were able to speak to the students about their individual paths into the company along with sharing careers advice. The students from the RCT were keen to ask questions and hear about the best ways they could boost their CV’s in order to gain a place on such schemes. Feedback from many of the teachers after the event was of how inspired and motivated the students had become for their individual career aspirations.
Martyn Silezin, rounded off the event to say how he was “Really proud of all the kids from RCT, this is the future! It’s a wonderful opportunity for to get a real life experience from a top class company. Big Thanks to Microsoft.”
The timing of this event and partnership with RCT could not be better. A recent report from the BBC spoke about 620 new IT jobs that will be created in the South of Wales over the next five years. The demand for IT and Developer skills has never been more prominent. A recent IDC study also highlights Microsoft Office as the #3 skill in demand by employers today and being #2 for high growth and high wage occupations. The excellent work that both students and the teachers from RCT are helping to enable Wales to develop the necessary skills to meet this demand in the industry.
At Microsoft we share the RCT’s vision of being “dedicated to developing 21st Century Skills to embrace the digital future.” We cannot wait to see the students develop the abilities they will need to succeed and we may be seeing more of them in the future!