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SUSE Expands Academic Program to Train More Open-Source Workers

The free SUSE training program aims to help universities, schools and other learning institutions provide open source skills to IT workers.

With a global shortage of workers trained in open-source software development and systems management being a reality for many companies, SUSE is expanding its free academic program training and support organization to attract and train more IT professionals to gain skills with open source.

The SUSE Academic Program, which the company started in May 2017, now provides open-source and SUSE software training to about 400 universities, schools, libraries, teaching hospitals and other learning organizations around the world, which the company hopes to double by the middle of next year, Brandon Fine, the SUSE Academic Program manager for the Americas, told Channel Futures.

Under the training program, open source and Linux vendor SUSE offers free curricula, lessons, software and support to educators and institutions so that students can gain new skills with SUSE products as well as Linux, OpenStack and related open-source applications, said Fine. The training is provided to schools and students from colleges to K-12 for open-source curricula that can be used across a wide range of industries.

SUSE is ramping up the program to help resolve a continuing global shortage of trained IT workers with quality skills in open source and the cloud, said Fine.

Brandon Fine

"There is a large growing demand for open-source professionals in the market in general," he said.

According to a recent Linux Foundation 2018 Open Source Jobs Report, hiring open-source talent is a priority for 83 percent of hiring managers, which is up from 76 percent in 2017, he said.

Those hiring managers are having a difficult time recruiting enough open-source talent, and that's where the expansion of the SUSE training program aims to help close the gap, said Fine.

"The goal of the SUSE Academic Program is to help academic institutions meet the growing demand for these open-source skills. We have had very good success with universities and others adopting the program. We have created prebuilt materials that provide schools with this information."

Recent additions to the program include the inclusion of new and expanded training materials, as well as the addition of new, live virtual labs on demand to provide students with lessons in new ways, said Fine.

"These are things that we are constantly looking at as well as what is being asked for and what is needed by the academic community."

So far, the organization is providing training materials to some 700 teachers across 400 educational institutions, said Fine, but the number of students receiving lessons is not yet known.  

"We don't enroll individual students, so it's difficult to know numbers. We are working on a way to track that more accurately."

The company is pleased so far with user adoption of educational services, he added.

"Demand for Linux professionals and our focus on making sure that we meet that demand [are] the main point[s] of the program."

The SUSE Academic Program provides certified Linux training and other courses; student curriculum materials for faculty and staff; free SUSE products for educational or lab use; a special SUSE buying program for educational institutions; development tools; and access to knowledge base, forums and technical support.

Among the institutions using the program are the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Czech Technical University, San Diego State University, New York City College of Technology and the University of British Columbia, according to SUSE.

"The materials provided in the SUSE Academic Program are very impressive," Phillip Chee, a computer science technologist and professor at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, said. "I am using the program to develop a lab for the students to install a small cloud and incorporating SUSE OpenStack Cloud into our operating-system theory class."

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, told Channel Futures that the SUSE Academic Program is one of a wide range of such efforts that can be found across the IT industry.

"There is a massive and growing shortage of qualified workers in fields ranging from truck driving to programming," said Enderle. "That has every large firm coming up with new and creative ways to both get kids interested in the fields that are massively understaffed and to then more easily recruit them."

Back in the 1990s, Cisco created what is likely the most aggressive and long-lasting such program with its Cisco Networking Academy, which has produced more than 1.3 million trained IT technicians, said Enderle.

"This SUSE effort isn't as old or as well-funded, but it is focused on solving the same problem, [only] targeted at creating more SUSE coders. These programs will become increasingly critical as labor shortages are expected to increase for the foreseeable future and those that can't attract the people will likely fall off in the face of those that do."

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