Case study

Core Systems case study | Foundation degrees

"The work placement allows us to develop individuals and to consider whether they might be suitable for us in the longer term – we therefore consider the work placement to be an 'extended interview process' for each student with the possibility of a full time position if they are successful.” - Gareth Morrison, Technical Manager, Core Systems
 

Building the business

IT firm Core Systems have witnessed very tangible benefits from employing Foundation degree work placement students and graduates that have been vital in helping to build their business. Based in Belfast, CORE is a software development company which is the UK leading expert in identity management solutions for high security facilities.

As Gareth Morrison, Technical Manager at Core Systems explains, the company has a long standing relationship with the Foundation degree qualification: “We have now been taking two work placement students from the Foundation degree course every year since 2008. We have found all of the students to be keen to learn and they also come equipped with many of the specific programming skills and languages that we need.”

Core takes work placement students from the Foundation degree in Computing and Network Systems which is delivered by Southern Regional College. The course is designed to provide students with the skills and expertise to seek employment in areas of the computing sector where there is a clear skills deficit. It combines academic study with hands on skills development in areas of Software Development and Network Management and Administration.

Extended Interview process

Work-based, or on-the-job, learning is an essential part of all Foundation degree courses. As well as helping the students gain practical experience and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired, there are many potential benefits for the businesses who host the students on their extended work placements. These include the injection of new skills and fresh ideas that motivated and enthusiastic students can bring.

Core Systems has also found to its advantage that hosting Foundation degree work placement students can also act as a cost-effective way of recruiting new members of staff. Core has been able to train Foundation degree work placement students in the very specialised skills they need, allowing students to gain vital experience relevant to Core’s business and letting Core get to know and assess the capabilities of each individual student.

Gareth explains: “The extended work placements mean that Core gets the chance to train the students in specialised programming languages and other specific skills that we need.

“The work placement allows us to develop individuals and to consider whether they might be suitable for us in the longer term – we therefore consider the work placement to be an 'extended interview process' for each student with the possibility of a full time position if they are successful. In some ways we therefore see the Foundation degree as an aid to our recruitment processes which is very important as we have had difficulty in recruiting IT graduates with the right qualities and skills that we are seeking through the traditional recruitment processes.”

The facts bear out the significant part that the Foundation degree has played in shaping Core Systems:

“Six members of our Technical Team at Core Systems are former Foundation degree students who completed their work placements with us and who we have subsequently employed in permanent full-time jobs following their studies. This means that almost a quarter of our current workforce of 25 people are former Foundation degree work placement students.”

Progression

Gareth continues: "Graduates from the Foundation degree course can progress to the final year of the Honours Degree in Computing Science, Information and Communication Technologies or the B Eng in Software Engineering at the University of Ulster. In a number of cases we have provided part-time employment to those Foundation degree students who go on to study at the University of Ulster before employing them once they have graduated."

Endorsement

Reflecting on the important role that the Foundation degree qualification has played in helping Core systems to strengthen their business, Gareth is keen to endorse the qualification and to recommend it to other employers:

“Our strategy of taking on placement students from the Foundation Degree course has worked exceptionally well for us and I would highly recommend it to other employers. It provides a mechanism for working with and ultimately recruiting young, talented and highly motivated staff. It is certainly a strategy we intend to continue with and indeed grow further in the coming years.”

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