18 Apr 2017

Digital & Tech Role Models & Mentors required for School Age Girls

A call to Women In Scotland’s Tech & Digital Sector – consider becoming role models and mentors to inspire the next generation!

Whether you’re a school leaver on a training course, a recent graduate, or early in your tech career, please volunteer to become role models and mentors for school age girls! By becoming a role model, you will be making an important contribution to the future of the digital technology sector and helping improve the economic prosperity of Scotland.

Girl Geek Scotland and Skills Development Scotland are holding a series of training webinars to get you started, show you how to use the available resources, and help you know what to expect, so you can go into schools confident you are fully prepared.

You will learn how to talk to teenagers about digital technology and gender discrimination and why both are important. You will learn how to create engaging presentations and interactive learning experiences while developing your communication skills and enhancing your professional capabilities and relationships.

The webinar will cover:
● how to engage a teenage audience,
● why digital technology is important and the range of jobs available,
● why we have a gender problem in digital technology,
● why it is important to get more girls into technology,
● how to talk about jobs in digital technology so that they appeal to girls,
● how young people can get into the industry,
● how to use and tailor the provided resources,
● how to construct and deliver interactive learning experiences,
● what practical information and logistics you need before visiting schools,
● how to become a role model or mentor.

All the webinars will cover the same material but places are limited so please select a time that is suitable for you.

The Free Webinars are available 0n:

● Thursday 27th April (19:30)
● Thursday 4th May (12:30)
● Tuesday 9th May (10:00)
● Saturday 13th May (13:00)

You can book webinar tickets via Eventbrite HERE

These webinars will use Google Hangouts to enable the widest possible audience. It’s available online and for both iOS and Android mobile phones. The link to the Google Hangouts will be shared with ticket holders the week before the webinar takes place.

It would also be appreciated if you could complete a short survey prior to the seminar as this will aid Girl Geeks Scotland and Skills Development Scotland to understand what we can do to support and motivate you in your role.

The survey can be found HERE

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29 Mar 2017

Minister unveils Digital Xtra Fund as Scotland’s first dedicated digital skills charity for young people

The Digital Xtra Fund has become Scotland’s first charity dedicated to supporting a full range of digital skills initiatives for young people aged 16 and under after receiving official charitable status from Scottish charity regulator, OSCR.

Digital Xtra is now calling on Scotland’s tech industry to contribute donations, sponsorships and offers of in kind support to ensure that extracurricular digital initiatives are available to young people wherever they live and whatever their background.

Funding has also been provided by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, whose partners include Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Funding Council, Education Scotland, ScotlandIS, and industry representatives.

The announcement was made by Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, speaking in Glasgow at Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017.

A key objective of the new charity is to promote gender balance by encouraging more girls to engage in digital and consider STEM subjects while in school.

Ms Somerville said: “The Digital Xtra Fund is an example of the Scottish Government’s determination to close the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy.

“Investment in the digital skills of our young people is crucial to Scotland’s future which is why we are extremely proud to fund Digital Xtra which has been a key partnership project from the Digital Technologies Skills Investment Plan.

“We must provide opportunities for our children and young people to develop their digital skills from a young age and Digital Xtra is doing just that, offering thousands of young people opportunities to strengthen their skills in this area through engagement in a range of innovative projects.”

The new Scottish Government Digital Strategy sets out its ambition to create conditions in which Scotland can increase the number of people employed in digital technology roles to 150,000 by 2021.

Increasing digital participation and preparing your people for the digital future by improving digital skills levels will be an integral component of this strategy. Career opportunities are significant, with an estimated 12,800 job opportunities available in Scotland annually.

The Digital Xtra Fund is appealing for support from companies that wish to support young people and want to see a coordinated, sustainable and inclusive approach, gaining maximum value from coalescing funds.

BT Scotland and Be Positive are two of the first industry supporters to have made a contribution to the Digital Xtra Fund.

Brendan Dick, Director of BT Scotland, said: “Digital skills are increasingly seen as a prerequisite, as important to the prospects of young people today as reading and writing. It’s essential our young people are equipped with the skills they need for the world of work, and the public, private and voluntary sectors all have a contribution to make in giving them the best possible chances.”

He continued: “Supporting Digital Xtra will help us build a culture of tech literacy, as BT works to reach five million young people across the UK by 2020. We hope many Scottish businesses will join us in backing the Digital Xtra Fund.”

Vicky Di Ciacca, Director at Be Positive, said: “It is vitally important that all young people are equipped to take on the challenge of our increasingly digital world. We are a small business and expect our future employees to lead the way when it comes to technology and how to harness it. Regardless of an individual’s ambitions and aspirations, digital skills are integral to engaging in the world of work and beyond.”

Digital Xtra will work to build stronger links between young people and Scotland’s tech industry, promote the range of pathways into the tech sector, and broaden the talent pipeline by targeting underrepresented groups.

The Digital Xtra Fund was launched in May 2016, and has to date distributed £400,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular activities, with funding provided by the partners of the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership.

The 22 projects funded so far are expected to reach 15,000 school pupils across every local authority area in Scotland. Funded initiatives include the training of over 140 librarians to deliver Code Clubs, the expansion of Apps for Good across Scotland and initiatives that use the design of lighthouses to introduce ‘little engineers’ to STEM concepts.

Phil Worms, Computing and Schools Project Lead at ScotlandIS, said: “It’s our aim to ensure that young people of all ages and backgrounds throughout Scotland have the opportunity to develop the skills required to thrive in our digital world. We need to inspire our younger generations, especially girls, in technology and digital. The Digital Xtra Fund charity will not only help us achieve this but will also offer tangible support to our education sector and act as a vehicle for industry support. ”

Paul Zealey, Digital Xtra Fund trustee and Skills Planning Lead at SDS, said: “Digital Xtra’s work to date is incredibly impressive, having impacted the lives of thousands of young people across Scotland as they become engaged and inspired by our digital world. We are off to a great start with the funding that Digital Xtra has already received and we hope that this will encourage others to follow suit and show their support for the charity.”

Joyce MacLennan, Head of Finance and Business Services at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “We need to offer opportunities for all of Scotland’s future young workforce to develop digital skills, especially young people in more rural areas who struggle to attend events or access activities. Digital Xtra helps overcome barriers, increase participation and explore opportunities to extend the reach of successful projects.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. A Board of trustees has been appointed to set the strategic direction of the charity and evaluate and review the initiatives that will receive funding. This expert panel is made up of representatives from across Scotland’s digital technology industry, including iomart, Fujitsu, Dogfi.sh Mobile, SCVO, ScotlandIS and Skills Development Scotland.

2. The Digital Xtra Fund will announce its plans and application processes in the near future, and it expects to welcome applications from existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as from new and innovative projects that could be rolled out further in future. All applicants must be able to demonstrate potential for scalability and sustainability, as well as showing how they will reach previously underrepresented groups.

3. Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) registered in Scotland SC047272

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23 Mar 2017

Digital Xtra Fund shortlisted for Digital Tech Awards

Digital Xtra Fund has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Education Provider/Training Programme category, sponsored by Administrate, at this year’s ScotlandIS Digital Tech Awards.

The category recognises inspirational, practical and effective education and training solutions that identify and maximise the skills required for today’s business.

The Digital Xtra Fund was launched in May 2016 and has distributed £400,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular computing and digital activities to under 16s across Scotland.

Partners of the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership have provided the funding to date.

So far 22 projects have been funded by Digital Xtra and are expected to reach 15,000 school pupils across every local authority area in Scotland in digital activities. Funded initiatives have included the training of over 140 librarians to deliver CodeClubs, the expansion of Apps for Good across Scotland through to the use of lighthouse design to introduce ‘little engineers’ to STEM concepts.

CodeClan and The Data Lab are recognised as the other finalists in this award category.

CodeClan, which operates in Edinburgh and Glasgow, is Scotland’s first dedicated software skills academy designed to teach graduates core coding skills over a 16 week period. Many of the students find employment at the end of the course. Data Lab enables new collaborations between industry, public sector and universities driven by common interests in the exploitation of data science. It provides resources and funding to kick-start projects, deliver skills and training, and help to develop the local ecosystem by building a cohesive data science community.

The awards, now in their seventh year, celebrate the talent and ideas abundant in Scotland’s world-class digital technologies industry. This year the awards received a huge number of entries from a diverse range of companies and organisations, reflecting the health of the sector. The judging panel included experts, champions and influencers from across the breadth of the nation’s digital technology industry and the public sector.

Polly Purvis CEO of ScotlandIS said: “We are a small country with outstanding capabilities reflected in the diversity, scale and sheer innovation of the companies on the shortlist. The continued success of the industry is reflected in the awards, which highlight the wealth of opportunities available to those considering a career in this vibrant sector. ”

The winners of the Digital Tech Awards will be revealed at a gala night at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu Hotel on Thursday 27th April 2017.

ScotlandIS Award Image by Guy Hinks

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10 Mar 2017

Minister to address event to tackle gender gap in technology

Scotland’s Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science is to deliver a ministerial address highlighting the importance of tackling the gender gap in technology at a dedicated conference at the Strathclyde Technology Innovation Centre on Wednesday 29 March.

Ms Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP will join representatives from industry, education and public sector at Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017, an event to share good practice and support organisations to encourage more females into digital technology.

The interactive and practical event will show individuals and organisations how they can take action to support women at every stage of the talent pipeline, from school to employment. The event is open to all and suitable for educators, employers and organisations working at all stages of the pipeline. A hub event will take place in Inverness on Thursday 30 March.

It follows the launch of Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together (TTGGT), an informative report into women in tech in Scotland commissioned by the Digital Technologies Skills Group and completed by Edinburgh Napier University.

The report found that women account for 18 per cent of those in digital technology roles in Scotland, with the gender gap in the talent pipeline starting at school.

It identified a prime opportunity to tackle the skills gap and attract more women into digital technology roles through targeted intervention and on-going support at every stage of the skills pipeline, from school to employment and retention.

Actions in progress include greater and improved use of role models in schools, extending the reach of technology into other subjects, promoting the benefits of gender parity and flexible workplaces, and supporting employers to attract, retain and promote female participation.

Delegates will hear from schools, tech clubs, colleges, universities, employers and organisations who have all been successful in engaging and supporting females into digital technology. There will also be the opportunity to take part in one of four interactive workshops.

Evelyn Walker, chair of Digital Technologies Skills Group’s Gender Work Stream and UK & Ireland Project Management Lead for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, will open the event.

She says: “This event is an opportunity to share real world projects, tactics, tools and success stories which will help more individuals and organisations to get involved in tackling the gender gap.”

“Research indicates that there are a lot of females who are open to the idea of working in tech. To turn that willingness into a real increase in the number of women in our sector we need to reach, support and inspire them to take the next steps.”

Presentations, panel discussions and workshops will be delivered by: Ayrshire College, BCS Women, CAS Ltd, Education Scotland, Equate Scotland, FanDuel, FDM, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise), J.P. Morgan, QA, SmartSTEMs, St Kentigern’s Academy, Wick High School.

A hub event in Inverness on Thursday 30 March will focus specifically on how to attract and retain women in the technology workplace and onto digital technology related courses at College and University. Delegates will have the opportunity to hear from speakers from the Glasgow event as well as a taking part in a round table discussion to share best practice and network with businesses from across the North of Scotland.

Register for Glasgow: HERE

Register for Inverness: HERE

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24 Feb 2017

Over 100 school children set for Apps for Good inaugural Scottish Event

On Wednesday 15th March, students from schools across Scotland will travel to Edinburgh’s Quincentenary Conference Centre to participate in the first ever Scottish event organised by Apps for Good, which will celebrate the future generation of digital makers.

This inaugural Scottish event has been made possible after being awarded a grant from Digital Xtra, funded by the Scottish Government Digital Skills Business Excellence Partnership, who have provided Apps for Good with support to help us grow our after-school activities in Scotland.

Phil Worms says, “Digital Xtra is delighted to be able to support the first Apps for Good event to be held in Scotland. It is a fantastic initiative that focuses our young people’s minds on becoming creators rather than consumers of technology and better prepares them for their future whatever career path they might take. Young Scottish students who have this creative capacity coupled with
technical ability will become the next generation of entrepreneurs and are therefore vital to Scotland’s long term economic success.”

The event will bring together some of Scotland’s brightest young digital makers and entrepreneurs under one roof in the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre for a day of networking and skill development workshops. The teams of young people have been working to create apps to tackle the problems and issues that matter most to them. At the event, the students will be showcasing their products, participating in workshops to hone their skills and getting feedback from top industry experts in Scotland.

Representatives from Scottish technology companies have volunteered to deliver four master-class workshops to attendees. Jamie Sutherland from Mallzee will speak about the importance of getting feedback from customers. Carole Logan from digital agency Equator will show the young entrepreneurs how to build digital prototypes. Katie Lyne from CivTech will share real world examples of product development and creation, including the triumphs and failures. Phil Worms from Digital Xtra will speak about putting together a perfect pitch.

These workshops mean the young people will get a great insight into what it takes to make it in tech in Scotland from those already working in the industry.

The invited industry guests have been chosen to reflect the diversity of Scotland’s burgeoning and dynamic tech community, and students will have the opportunity to pitch their app idea and gain advice and feedback from the invited guests during the Marketplace part of the event. The event will culminate with the invited guests casting their vote in our People’s Choice Awards which will recognise the top three teams.

Apps for Good’s journey in Scotland began back in 2012/13 when its app development course was delivered in 5 centres including, Wick High School, Wick (Highlands); Calderglen High School, East Kilbride (Glasgow); and, Fife College, Kirkcaldy (Fife). In the years that followed, Apps for Good is proud to say that it has gone from strength to strength in Scotland. During the 2015/16 academic year 133 schools and learning centres delivered our app development course across Scotland.

Heather Picov, the Apps for Good UK Managing Director says “We are delighted and proud to be hosting this event in partnership with Digital Xtra, established by the Scottish Government Digital Skills Business Excellence Partnership to celebrate the next generation of Scotland’s tech entrepreneurs. Since our launch in Scotland in 2012, we have seen schools and students here go from strength to strength with the quality and creativity of their product ideas and the depth of their digital skills, supported by a thriving technology community. We know the future of tech isn’t just in
London or San Francisco, but in Edinburgh, Fife and Wick – and places like them all over Scotland, and this event will help showcase that potential to the nation.”

About Apps for Good
Apps for Good aims to unlock the confidence and talent of the next generation of problem solvers and digital makers: young people who are ready to tackle the 21st century workplace and are inspired to create real technology products that can change their world for good. Since launching in 2010/11 Apps for Good has been delivered in over 1,500 schools to more than 75,000 students. Apps for Good is a registered charity and is supported by partnerships with companies and foundations who share their vision of improving technology education. Corporate partners include technology leaders Thomson Reuters, Salesforce.org, Nominet Trust and Samsung to name but a few.

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15 Feb 2017

We’re Hiring! Partnerships & Development Manager

The Digital Xtra Fund is seeking a Partnerships & Development Manager on a 6 month contract.

The Digital Xtra Fund launched in May 2016, as part of a wider programme of activity dedicated to developing digital skills for young people across Scotland, and supports the objectives of the Digital Technologies Skills Investment Plan developed by Skills Development Scotland in 2014.

Year 1 of Digital Xtra has been hugely successful with feedback from awardees and partners being very positive. We would like to build on this success by developing the business model for Digital Xtra and establish it as a Scottish Charitable organisation, and we are seeking an ambitious individual to manage and develop the transition from a publicly funded programme to an independent entity with a wide range of sponsors.

The Digital Xtra Fund wishes to appoint a Partnerships & Development Manager who is passionate about fundraising and committed to making a real difference in supporting young people across Scotland to develop their computing and digital skills.

You will be a confident ambassador for the organisation, and capable of delivering funding growth year on year consistent with the values of Digital Xtra Fund. You will need to use your experience, networks, initiative, creativity and proven income-generating skills to ensure the success of the Fund’s ambitious plans for income growth.

The position is for a 6 month contract period but it is expected that the position will become a full time permanent position.

A detailed Job Description for the position can be downloaded by clicking on the following link:

job_description_partnerships_development_manager_digital_xtra_fund_february_2017

Interested applicants should send a copy of their latest CV to info@digitalxtrafund.scot by 5.00pm on Friday 3rd March 2017.

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06 Feb 2017

Annual ScotlandIS Scottish Tech Sector Survey 2017

Each year the Scottish Technology Industry Survey provides information on the health of the digital technologies industry in Scotland including data on skills, education and the issues facing employers in finding the right talent.

Commissioned by trade organisation ScotlandIS and supported by recruitment agency NineTwenty, the survey measures the industry’s current size, performance and development and provides intelligence for many organisations in both the Scottish public and private sectors.

As a respondent you will be one of the first to receive the results once they are available. The survey will be published the ScotlandIS website and it is expected that it will be widely reported on by media outlets. Last year’s report is available here.

The survey has been designed to be completed in around 10 minutes and includes questions on your company details and business performance (e.g. sales, profit margins, exports, skills requirements) . CEOs, MD’s and other senior staff will find it easiest to complete the survey.

Take the survey now

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30 Jan 2017

From drones to little lighthouses – 10 inspiring projects receive Digital Xtra Fund grants

The Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £150,000 to a series of sustainable digital initiatives aimed at engaging and inspiring Scotland’s next generation of digital makers.

Sums of up to £25,000 were awarded to support 10 extracurricular computing science projects, including one that uses the context of lighthouses to introduce young people to STEM concepts, and another that teaches young people to code using the BBC Micro:bit.

The Digital Xtra Fund aims to make extracurricular digital activities accessible to all young people aged 16 and under, whatever their background and wherever they live in Scotland. In particular, funded projects bring new opportunities to those in harder to reach, rural and disadvantaged areas.

In August 2016 Digital Xtra Fund awarded £250,000 of funding to its first 12 projects. It’s estimated that by March 2017 these projects will have reached approximately 10,500 young people across Scotland, from Orkney to Dumfries and Galloway.

The Scottish Government provided the initial funding to launch Digital Xtra in May 2016 in partnership with organisations including Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Education Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and ScotlandIS. It is expected that the Fund will expand and go from strength to strength through the financial support of Industry, employers and other funding bodies.

Minister for Further and Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

STEM subjects can open the door to significant and wide-ranging career opportunities: as well as improving literacy, numeracy and confidence, they can also provide the specialist knowledge and skills necessary to work in the ever-increasing STEM sectors of the economy and continue Scotland’s proud history of excellence and innovation in STEM.

“This government is determined to close the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy which is why we are extremely proud to fund Digital Xtra through the digital skills investment plan. Initiatives like this are absolutely key to inspiring more young people to pursue a career in STEM and I’d like to congratulate all those who have been successful in securing funding for their projects, I look forward to seeing the end results.”

Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and Digital Skills at SDS, said: “At a time when businesses and organisations across all sectors in Scotland are experiencing increased demand for employees with high level digital technology skills, it’s vital that we show young people that they can be the makers of technology and help them to realise the potential of technology careers.

“Extracurricular activities are a great way of engaging young people and with the help of Digital Xtra Fund they are available more widely than ever before.

A diverse range of digital projects were selected to receive the funding including existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as innovative new projects and pilots that could be rolled out further in the future.

Among the latest awardees is Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and BT for the Little Lighthouse Project, which aims to reach 1,200 school pupils in Primary 1-4 across four local authority areas: Highlands, Western Isles, Perth and Kinross, and Scottish Borders. The initiative uses the context of lighthouses to introduce ‘Little Engineers’ to various STEM concepts including electricity, light, sounds and computing science.

Argyll & Bute Council will establish an extracurricular digital learning hub in Dunoon where a variety of coding clubs and workshops will be held to provide an outreach service for pupils. The hub will act as a dedicated technology space that will provide learners with access to cutting edge digital technology through the use of drones, programmable Lego, robotics and Raspberry Pi computers.

ComputerXplorers will use its funding to deliver workshops to support the roll out of the BBC Micro:bit to S1 pupils in East Lothian. The project aims to give young people an exciting and engaging introduction to coding and also includes CPD (Continuing Professional Development) sessions for teachers in high schools and cluster primary schools.

Around 600 young people will benefit from Dundee & Angus College’s digital learning programme with Dundee Science Centre. This project will target young people in Dundee that are living in areas of multiple deprivation and are not currently engaged in digital skills. Code Academy classes and ‘portable lab’ sessions will introduce participants to a variety of computer science fields such as networking, programming and web design through short, practical sessions.

The other awardees are: College Development Network, Fife College, Forth Valley College, Glasgow Science Centre, Raspberry Pi Foundation, and West College Scotland in partnership with Renfrewshire Council.

Phil Worms, Computing and Schools Project lead at tech industry body ScotlandIS, said: “In its first year the Digital Xtra Fund has supported a wide range of innovative projects that will directly reach over 15,000 young people in Scotland. Over time the Fund has the potential to make a real difference to the skills landscape in Scotland but it requires the support of industry now if it is to succeed and grow.

“Digital Xtra won’t solve the skills gap overnight but if it continues to support organisations that engage young people in digital activities from an early age it will help provide us with a talent pipeline for the future. There are many opportunities for individuals and organisations to join us; from becoming an official funding partner to supporting regional activities to providing us with specialist expertise.”

More information about the successful projects funded by Digital Xtra can be found HERE

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18 Jan 2017

Digital Xtra Map Updated with Latest Coderdojo & ComputerXplorer Info

The Digital Xtra Map has been updated to include the latest information on CoderDojo activities and locations and to add a new set of extracurricular activities: ComputerXplorers

ComputerXplorers is part of the world’s largest franchised network providing fun and engaging quality technology and computing education for children from the age of 3 to 13.

Each ComputerXplorers business in the UK is independently owned and operated. ComputerXplorers operates across the UK and has several locations within Scotland, all of which have now been added to the Map.  ComputerXplorers designs its own unique after school extracurricular computing clubs to deliver a wide range of digital skills in a fun, innovative and engaging way. They are the ideal way to support the computing curriculum. Sessions are always fun and have the added benefit of delivering tangible education and technology skills – creating children who are e-confident and competent: a great head-start in life, adding a fantastic boost to their all-important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills.

CoderDojo Scotland is part of a global collaboration that provides free coding clubs for young people. It enables them to learn everything they need to become great programmers whilst providing a safe, fun and sociable environment to do it in. Between April 2015 and September 2016, CoderDojo Scotland delivered 358 sessions reaching 4980 young Scots.

At a CoderDojo the learning is led by the young people – there is no set curriculum. CoderDojo encourages its volunteer mentors to share their knowledge in areas they are passionate about. It therefore provides a great learning experience for both the mentors as well as the young people.

To find the ComputerXplorers and CoderDojo activity nearest to you, open the Digital Xtra Map (click HERE and select  the ‘Map Views’ tab on the top right of the map) and select ComputerXplorers or CoderDojo from the drop down menu.

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02 Dec 2016

Skills Skills Skills

In the space of the past twenty four hours, the wires have been humming with news of EU Commission’s launch of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, Oracle’s donation of $1.4 billion to computer sciences and digital skills learning and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, unveiling a £7m Digital Talent Programme to arm young Londoners with the skills they need to access jobs in the capital’s thriving digital, technology and creative industries.

It may be a coincidence that these stories, much to the chagrin of the respective PRs, have broken at the same time or it might simply be that the subject of Digital Skills is now main stream news.

I’d err with the later and it’s not before time that we elevated tech stories from the business pages to the front sections of our on and off line media.

Every single economic indicator, global or local, has been screaming for over a decade, since the mass deployment of broadband and mobile access technologies, that the next industrial revolution will be in the cloud and that the jobs of the future will require computing skills and yet we have somehow managed to ignore the signs.

In 2006 the world’s top six most valuable public companies included General Electric, Citigroup, BP & Royal Dutch Shell. Today these business have been replaced with Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon & Facebook. Only ExxonMobil and Microsoft, another tech giant, are common to both lists ten years on, giving credence to the saying that ‘data is the new oil’.

During this same period, Europe has seen demand for workers with computer science and coding skills grow by four percent each year, year on year, and with no sign of abatement.

Back in June of this year, The UK Government’s Science and Technology Committee published a report which frankly made depressing if inevitable reading. The report warns that the UK will need 745,000 extra digitally skilled workers, across all sectors, by 2017. As this wasn’t challenging enough, the report sets out the size of the task in plugging this skills gap, by revealing that 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills; 5.8 million people have never used the internet; only 35% of computer teachers in schools have a relevant degree and computing science teacher recruitment sees a 30% shortfall.

If we just focused on Scotland, the figures would be just as shocking. 1 million Scots don’t have internet access. 30 per cent of the Scottish population lack basic digital skills. The number of computing teachers has fallen from 802 to 598 over the past ten years and 17% of secondary schools have no computing specialist. According to projections by Deloitte, Scotland is set to lose £9bn in potential gains over the next 15 years if it doesn’t adopt a visionary digital action plan.

And there we have the crux of the problem. Education in its broadest sense.

We are currently guilty of failing our young people and we are denying them one of the greatest gifts that we can bestow: opportunity. We are anchoring them at the wrong end of the technology food chain and in doing so we are damaging the economic and social prospects of our nations.

It’s not just the formal education system that is failing our young people but the support provided by parents and carers to them as they develop and make life choices.

What is the likelihood of a parent who has never used the internet suggesting to their son or daughter that they consider a career in data analytics or cyber security? I’m not a betting man but I reckon the odds would be pretty high.

At least in Scotland the Education system appears to have woken from its slumber and is starting to make positive changes. There is a recognition that computing science and digital subjects are vital and are now being placed at the heart of the curriculum, more specialist teachers are being recruited and classrooms are being upgraded with latest technology. But, to use an oil analogy again, the education system is one big tanker and it’s going to take time to turn it around.

Changing the perceptions and attitudes of parents and carers towards computing and digital careers on the other hand will take even longer. This is one of the reasons why it is so important that the main media channels, both on and offline, continue to promote the digital world and the opportunities it offers as mainstream at every turn. Oh if there is anyone reading this with TV commissioning responsibilities, please can we have some children’s programmes on computing and technology and the odd Data Centre Network engineer or App Designer wouldn’t go amiss in a soap or two.

So is it all doom and gloom? Have we really created a booming sector and somehow overlooked the development of the talent pipeline to fuel its continued growth?

Well Yes, the facts can’t be disputed, but on the other hand, what is now encouraging and apparent is that we (‘we’ being Government, Education and Industry) have finally recognised that there is a real issue to be addressed and that the time for rhetoric and spin is over and we now need action.

Over the past two years and since the publication of the tech sector Skills Investment Plan by Skills Development Scotland, the country has witnessed some real progress and managed some positive gains.

Only this week Edinburgh based CodeClan, the Digital Skills Academy that delivers intensive programming courses and helps people to reskill and move into the tech sector, celebrated its first birthday by announcing expansion plans into Glasgow. During its inaugural year 166 students have started the course, 101 have completed, with 59 ‘inflight’, and 80% of those who have completed the course are now in relevant jobs. An impressive start.

The DigitalWorld Campaign launched last year is a national initiative that inspires and supports people to go into digital technology careers. Over the past twelve months, using a mix of online and face to face, it has reached thousands of young people and, importantly, their parents, promoting technology and the attractiveness of the sector at every opportunity.

We are also beginning to truly harness and appreciate the power of ‘in work learning’ as we see more and more young people, supported by industry, seek internships and apprenticeships to help them ‘earn whilst they learn’ whilst gaining valuable skills and experience , for example through the highly successful e-placement Scotland programme.

And finally, we have at last woken up to the fact that we need to capture the hearts and minds of our young people long before they are in a position to select their subject choices at S3.

Today’s children are the first generation for whom technology is omnipresent -affecting every element of their lives from the moment they were born. Computational thinking as a skill has never been more needed and we’re seeing recognition of this reflected in preschool and primary services providing children with educational tools to encourage the development of computer and coding skills.

Another hugely positive development has been the acceptance of the importance of extracurricular activities to complement, in some cases filling a void, formal school activity.

The Digital Xtra Fund was created in May this year by the Scottish Government, who contributed £400,000 to fund extracurricular computing science and digital activities for under 16s across Scotland.

In its first year the Fund has supported a wide range of innovative projects that will directly reach over 15,000 young people across the country. Funded projects have included the training of public library employees to deliver Code Clubs to young people across 28 of the 32 Local Authority Library Services and the extension of the Apps for Good programme across Scotland. Apps for Good will now engage 2,500 young people and provide them with the opportunity to design, build, market and launch apps to solve problems in their communities.

It has to be recognised that what we are trying to achieve here is as much a cultural shift as it is simply a skills rebalance but we have at least started the journey. And it is a journey.

And if we are to continue on an upward path then it is essential that we (Government, Education, Industry) don’t sit back and wait for others to solve the problems. We all have the same goal and we will achieve it if we pool resources and work together.

Two of the initiatives mentioned – CodeClan and DigitalXtra Fund – need industry buy in if they are to succeed and continue to grow. CodeClan requires employer partners and DigitalXtra requires funds to continue to support innovative projects that can make a real difference to young Scot’s lives.

If you want to help the DigitalXtra Fund please CONTACT US NOW.

 

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