Muscat: The Information Technology Authority (ITA) has taken the lead to bridge the gap between the knowledge that graduates acquire during their academic study and the practical experience required by the labour market.The national organisation is offering IT training and certification opportunities with an aim to increase the number of certified IT professionals in different IT domains so as to meet the immediate needs in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.The National IT Training & Awareness Framework (NITTA) initiative is a nationwide governmental e.oman initiative aimed at developing ICT skills capability and enhancing ICT awareness and proficiency within the government and the community. One of the key initiatives that falls under the NITTA umbrella is the Specialised IT Training (SITT) programme. SITT focuses on providing specialised IT training courses and granting opportunities to obtain specialised certificates, thereby increasing the number of holders of specialised certificates in the different IT fields. The programme contributes to meeting the current needs of the ICT industry in the public and private sectors, as well as satisfying future needs so as to enhance the growth of the local ICT sector.In this way, competencies, skills, and experience necessary for the development of the ICT industry are provided, in addition to contributing to the different initiatives to achieve the objectives of the e.oman strategy and e-Government in the Sultanate.Project attachment projectA part of the SITT programme is the Practical Training and Project Attachment project, which is designed to provide Omanis in the IT field with opportunities to gain high-level work experience with international IT companies and expose them to different types of projects and work environments. This would further develop their competencies and, possibly, encourage them to establish start-ups in the field.In support of this project, ITA has recently signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with SAP and Gulf Business Machines (GBM) under the Practical Training and Project Attachment project. This project aims to provide in-depth exposure and work experience to jobseekers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in leading technologies through partnerships with leading IT organisations and their network of partners.Aiming to boost graduate employment prospects, SAP, the world's largest business software company, has launched its innovative Mawared Graduate Training programme in Oman. The recently signed MoU between ITA and SAP will enable both parties to collaborate on plans to improve the programme's effectiveness across the Sultanate, including the potential to subsidise additional students.SAP training In late April, the joint Mawared collaboration fostered the enrolment of 20 talented SAP-sponsored Omani graduates, out of a total of 300 applicants, with a second batch of 20 students expected to enrol in Q4 of 2013. The training will include hands-on project experience and will encompass everything from negotiation and communication to conflict management and design thinking. In addition, the initiative will offer SAP certifications on associate level in core business and industry solutions. Petroleum Development Oman and Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company have already benefited from a pilot version of the SAP-Mawared programme.Gulf Business Machines (GBM) and ITA have also recently signed an MoU with the aim to further develop and support the SME sector in Oman. The programme is a combination of training and practical work, in addition to networking opportunities. It is expected to prepare them for the job market by providing them essential business, technical, and leadership skills that can boost their career development and potentially support the creation of SMEs in these technologies.