Mobile App team called in to satisfy international demand for specialists

Academics from our Departments of Computing and Business Studies have been called in to help Russia and Azerbaijan meet their rapidly growing demand for IT specialists and app developers.

Rapid growth

The market for mobile app developers in Russia and Azerbaijan is growing rapidly because of a very high demand in both economies and a shortage of IT specialists. Skilled workers in this area is a national priority in both countries. However, there were significant gaps in the skills and knowledge of their students and graduates due to the lack of state-of-the-art programmes that followed trends in IT developments.

Carlton McDonald, Rob Moon and Chris Windmill are bringing their expertise in mobile app development and games development to a project to help transform the calibre of graduates by creating courses in MSc Mobile Applications and Game Design. The project, known as MAGnUS, is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the EU.

Yana Demyanenko, Associate Professor of the Institute of Mathematics, Mechanics and Computer Science at South Federal University in Russia, says: “I looked through your programme of MSc Mobile App Development and Computer Games courses. I think it is just a fine example of what we want to develop.”

Emphasising employability

The University of Derby has ran an MSc in Mobile App Development since September 2012 which addressed a similar demand in the UK.

Our course was the only one to incorporate entrepreneurial management. It was also the only one at the time to include iOS programming skills.

All our courses have a high emphasis on employability and technical skills. Carlton led our effort due to his extensive programme development insight as well as his specialisation in teaching of programming languages. Rob is our Entrepreneurship specialist, while Chris brings extensive game development and games programming expertise to the team.

The primary mobile platforms of Android and Apple’s iOS have both changed the programming languages used to develop apps. The course incorporated these new approaches immediately in order to ensure the graduates would be right at the forefront of the industry development requirements.

Satisfying demand

The project was set up because, despite 300,000 software developers in Russia and 1,680 IT companies in Azerbaijan, there was a 75% shortfall in IT specialists across the two countries compared with market demand.

Each year there are 25,000 IT graduates in both countries, most of them are system engineers and web design specialists. The IT companies say that only 15% of the graduates are sufficiently prepared to start working immediately upon graduation.

Mobile applications are the most rapidly growing sector of IT. They are especially popular and indispensable in healthcare and education. Mobile apps can monitor and improve health conditions, empowering ordinary people to have more knowledge and influence in their medical decisions. In the education sector, it is mobile apps and games that can help to socialise and engage students in the academic process.

Before MAGnUS, there was only one programme in Mobile Applications and two programmes in Game Development in Russia and none in Azerbaijan.

Making a difference

The MAGnUS project is designed to fill specific gaps in the market in both countries. It aims to increase the employability of IT graduates and satisfy the demands of IT employers.

It corresponds to the national priorities of both countries, Russia’s ‘Strategy of ICT development till 2025’ and Azerbaijan’s ‘Azerbaijan 2020. Look into the future’. The project idea is in line with the IT developments in Europe. As one of the flagship initiatives of Europe 2020, the EU's strategy to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Digital Agenda for Europe seeks to optimise the benefits of digital technologies.