17 Oct 2023

Corstorphine Primary School’s coders of the future inspired by CGI and Digital Xtra Fund

The city of Edinburgh is known globally as a booming tech hub, with huge demand for job hunters looking for careers in coding, software development, and cybersecurity. As these opportunities continue to grow, it’s never been more important for those in education in the city itself to make sure its children are engaged in the world of STEM, technology and computing – in particular pupils of primary school age.

At Corstorphine Primary School, teacher Neil Stannett recognised the need to boost interest among pupils in coding and STEM in a creative way. As a result, he launched the Technicoders and Coding Club, made up of 10 boys and 10 girls from P6 and P7. The club began meeting every week to provide engaging ways to learn how to code.

Funding was gained thanks to a £3,000 grant from Digital Xtra Fund, a charity whose backers include global IT company CGI. Digital Xtra Fund’s mission is to provide all young people in Scotland with the chance to learn meaningful digital skills such as coding or robotics through extracurricular activities, especially those who otherwise would not get the opportunity to do so.

The school was able to purchase a classroom set of Sphero BOLTs with the grant from Digital Xtra FundThis allowed Corstorphine Primary to buy new Sphero BOLT coding robots and equipment which made the learning environment of the club come to life. Together with iPads for pupils provided by CGI through City of Edinburgh Council’s Edinburgh Learns for Life, the club members’ love of all things coding has been transformed, with huge levels of interest and engagement.

Mr Stannett said: “I was excited at the prospect of being able to support our new pupil group to learn about coding, and experiment creatively with robotics. Thanks to the grant from Digital Xtra Fund, we were able to purchase a set of 15 Sphero BOLTs in a travel charging case, along with a variety of accessories to go with our school sets of micro:bits.

“The BOLTs were ideal for our pupil group to learn with as they can be coded using different programming languages. They are also just great fun. The club itself was formed just before we purchased the robots. We were incredibly lucky to have a number of pupils who were keen to support the school with its digital journey.”

Staff from CGI tell members of Corstorphine PS's Technicoders Club about their career journeys in techMr Stannett said the support of Digital Xtra Fund has been transformative, as has Edinburgh Learns for Life’s iPads. The pupils can use the iPads not only in their everyday work, but also for coding the Sphero BOLTs. They were also given insights into future potential careers from those already working in STEM among Digital Xtra Fund’s backers. These included senior managers from CGI, a global IT firm with local roots that supports communities across Scotland.

Lyndsey Teaz, Vice President, Glasgow Metro, and Andrew Fournet, Commercial Manager and Co-Chair of Environmental Task Force Space Scotland, visited to give a special talk on how their company uses space technology to provide technological solutions for clients and also saw first-hand the amazing projects that the club had been involved with.

Mr Stannett carried on: “Sharing our work with and hearing about the career paths of Lyndsay and Andrew, and the work they are involved with, opened their eyes to the almost limitless possibilities a keen interest in technology can take you.

“Also, the Edinburgh Learns for Life iPads have provided a real benefit to learning. It meant that we didn’t have to worry about booking out a set of school iPads each week and the members of the Technicoders Club could jump right in each lunchtime with their own devices.

“It also meant they could save their projects to their own account and not have to worry about finding the same iPad each week, which also increased a sense of ownership.”

Learners from Corstorphine Primary School show what they've learned with their new Sphero BOLTs and Apple iPadsWith a club split 50/50 between boys and girls, Mr Stannett noticed different ways in which they engaged with the BOLTs and iPads. He said: “The group was mixed in terms of interests, as some preferred to explore the story-telling capabilities of the robots, while others were more interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how each coding programme worked.

“Overall through, the Technicoders Club boosted interest in coding and computing not only among pupils, but staff in the school too. I often had teachers asking me how some of the programmes worked and I ran a Micro:bit training session for interested staff members.”

The pupils were also keen to pass on what they had learned to other younger years, also ‘lighting the fuse’ of interest among them.

He continued: “We decided to set up a P5 Code Club. One of the stand out moments from the group for me has to be when, during our initial sessions with the P5s, a small group started creating a spooky story using the text-speech function on the iPads and had the Sphero BOLT move across a haunted house drawn on paper on the floor.

“This instigated the next few weeks of learning, as all the groups began creating stories and using their robots to move through a setting or act as the main character. I was so impressed at the creativity and innovation on show.”

It was also heartening that, in a sector where men outnumber women in careers, the club’s girls enjoyed coding as much as the boys.

Mr Stannett concluded: “I think it is fantastic that a lot of old-fashioned stereotypes around technology are dying out and anyone can head into any career they want to.

“I have no doubt our Technicoders could step into any career path linked to technology. They all demonstrated a fantastic drive and sense of ‘what can I do to make this work?’ These positive attitudes will take them much further than just knowing a set of coding skills.”

 

 

 

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24 May 2023

Incremental continues to help inspire the next generation into tech

The following was published by Incremental Group on 22nd May 2023 in the lead up to the 2023/24 Round VIII grants cycle.


Incremental Group continues its support of Digital Xtra Fund and grassroots STEM initiatives for children as a Megabyte Partner for fifth consecutive year.

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, equipping young minds with the necessary skills and knowledge is crucial to ensuring a prosperous future. Recognising this imperative, various initiatives across the UK have emerged to engage and empower children in the field of technology.  Digital Xtra Fund (DXF) is a Scottish-based charity that provides grant awards to organisations delivering extracurricular computing and digital tech activities to young people across Scotland.

Since launching in 2016, DXF has placed a strong emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion within the technology sector, helping to close the digital skills gap in Scotland. By actively engaging children from underrepresented backgrounds and creating a supportive environment, the Fund’s mission is to ensure opportunities are accessible to all. With a focus on areas of high deprivation and female participation, DXF aims to break down barriers to tech at a grassroots level. This inclusive approach not only enriches the learning experiences for those involved, but also contributes to building a more diverse and vibrant tech industry.

The impact of DXF has been far-reaching, having distributed £875,000 in support of digital skills initiatives across Scotland to date. In its latest round of grant funding (2022/23), which Incremental also supported, DXF awarded 35 extracurricular tech initiatives grants of up to £5,000 each. With a projected engagement of 7,488 children and young people – including 3,929 girls and young women – the 35 grants cover 24 local authorities, including:

  • 23 primary schools
  • 3 secondary schools
  • 3 colleges/universities
  • 2 libraries
  • 4 additional educational bodies.

Incremental is proud to be extending its support of Digital Xtra Fund for a fifth consecutive year, further helping to support  and inspire children across Scotland. As well as being a Megabyte partner of the charity, Incremental once again proudly hosted the Fund’s Evaluation Meetup on the 18th May in its Glasgow office. The meetup brings together over 50 of DXF’s panelists from the technology industry to assess and award grants to fund applicants. .

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, commented, “One of the Fund’s first partners, Incremental, believes in Digital Xtra Fund’s vision of industry, government, and the third sector working together to give every young person in Scotland an opportunity to learn key digital skills and understand how these skills relate to an increasingly digital world. On behalf of Digital Xtra Fund and the many tech initiatives we have supported, I would like to thank Incremental Group for its continued support. We look forward to working with you for another year.”

In a time of rapid technological advancement, supporting digital skills initiatives for children is crucial. To find out more about Incremental’s wider commitment to STEM initiatives, discover our article: STEM Ambassadors in Scotland.

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02 Nov 2022

Scottish tech organisations join forces to bridge the digital skills gap

The following thought piece originally appeared in ScotlandIS Blog on 2nd November 2022.


A new partnership has been formed by ScotlandIS, Tech She Can, and STEM Ambassadors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to address the Scottish technology skills gap.

The organisations are seeking to tackle a shared ambition to increase STEM education for school aged pupils, by improving collaboration between the programmes and accessibility for anyone who wants to get involved.

ScotlandIS’ ‘Digital Critical Friends’ programme, in partnership with DYW Glasgow and Skills Development Scotland, has been rolled out in several local authority areas to help meet the rapidly growing and changing skills demand within the Scottish digital sector. It connects school aged pupils with industry practitioners to support computing education, developing interest and abilities in digital technologies, with a view to increasing the digital skills talent pipeline. It also provides teachers with access to insight and support from industry, increasing knowledge and informing lessons.

Through the new partnership, STEM Ambassadors will provide PVG accreditation, making it much easier to become a Digital Critical Friend. With Tech She Can’s ‘Tech We Can’ educational resources now being provided to Digital Critical Friends, they can increase the support given to teachers to build knowledge and confidence in delivering tech related lessons, helping to inform students and inspire them to consider a career in STEM.

Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS, said: “Our aim when we started Digital Critical Friends was to ensure young people had access to practical knowledge, experience within the tech sector and exposure to the career opportunities available to them. This partnership with STEM ambassadors and Tech She Can will allow us all to work together to give young minds the opportunity to explore a future in tech.

“We’re calling for passionate individuals to get involved with the programme. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get invaluable mentoring experience by training the potential future pioneers of tech.”

The SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Research Centre) is a charity group which runs STEM Ambassadors.

SSERC CEO, Alastair MacGregor, said: “We’re delighted to be able to work alongside Tech She Can and ScotlandIS to provide such excellent opportunities for our STEM Ambassadors to help young people in Scotland consider a career in technology. STEM Ambassadors come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and by participating in the Digital Critical Friends and Tech We Can initiatives they are able to share those experiences with others.”

Dr Claire Thorne, co-CEO of Tech She Can, added: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with STEM Ambassadors and ScotlandIS to inspire more young people across Scotland to consider a future career in technology. Our Tech We Can Champions are all STEM Ambassador trained and we’re delighted that Digital Critical Friends can now also use our resources to inspire students about tech. Collaboration is key to improving diversity in technology and we’re excited about the potential of this partnership.”

The partnership is actively seeking volunteers from across Scotland to join the programmes, there are currently Digital Critical Friends programmes running in the South of Scotland, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, and East Renfrewshire still have some spaces in the Borders, East Dunbartonshire, and Glasgow.

Karen Meechan added: “In particular, we are looking to hear from tech experts across all digital professions who might be interested in helping. If you feel passionate about STEM education in our schools, get in touch.”

ScotlandIS, STEM Ambassadors and Tech She Can can be contacted for further information on how to get involved or take a look at the partnership page here.

For details on Digital Critical Friends specifically, visit: https://www.scotlandis.com/blog/help-us-help-them-critical-friends-programme/

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31 Oct 2022

Top skills you need for your tech recruits

The following piece was written by CodeClan and originally appeared in FutureScot on 17th October 2022.


Most software developers need specific ‘hard skills’, otherwise known as technical skills. They include things like programming languages and software testing. But developers also need ‘soft’ or essential skills – the ones probably already acquired through past work experience.

Take a look at the top three soft and hard skills young people need to become an effective software programmer. This list is not exhaustive, but it makes an excellent starting point.

Soft skills for software development

1. Problem-solving or analytic skills

As a software developer, they will frequently face technical problems to resolve. They will often encounter bugs in code. They might also need to develop new software solutions.

People with strong problem-solving or analytic skills are well-suited to this line of work. Good developers can analyse and summarise a problem before considering several angles and finding a solution.

Analytical skills are not unique to people who work in STEM. Most professional roles require critical thinking and gauging the best way to respond to an obstacle.

2. Time management 

Software developers often need to meet tight deadlines. They also need to keep abreast of the latest technical developments in their area of expertise.

Balancing deliverables with self-teaching requires strong time management skills. Organising and prioritising tasks are important though often overlooked aspects of a developer’s role.

Time management is an essential skill. How often do your recruits need to exercise time management skills in their role?

3. Communication skills

Developers rarely work in isolation. Rather, they are part of a wider team tasked with delivering a set project. That team will usually need to collaborate with other groups.

This makes strong communication skills highly desirable in a software developer.

Knowing how to ask the right questions, bring up challenges, propose solutions and get along with teammates are integral to the development process.

If they have ever had to give a presentation, contribute to a meeting or participate in teamwork, then this is a way to see how they have exercised their communication skills. The question is, How strong is their communication and does it fit into your organisation?

Hard skills for software development

1. Programming languages

There are literally hundreds of programming languages, which can make learning how to code seem a little daunting.

The five most popular programming languages for developers are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, and TypeScript.

But that does not mean your new recruit needs to know all there is to know about these languages to become a software developer. In reality, most developers know a handful of programming languages, and they are constantly updating their knowledge of how to use them.

The best way to start? Learn the basics of one programming language. This is how CodeClan supports our career changers and upskills our partner network. We have a whole range of courses to help you.

2. Software testing and debugging

It is one thing to write code; it is another thing entirely to make it work.

Testing software is another key part of a developer’s role. There are specialists whose role is to design test procedures – often, developers must learn how to apply them.

Testing often reveals bugs in software. Developers need to identify what is causing the bug – they can then begin to find a solution – often by asking other teammates or turning to online forums.

3. Data structure

Data structures are methods of organising data to make performing operations more efficient.

Just like programming languages, there are different types of data structures, including arrays, stacks and queues.  Getting to know different data structures and learning which to choose is a key technical skill for software developers.

Final thoughts

Just like any other profession, software development requires a range of soft and hard skills.

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28 Oct 2022

Winners announced for first-ever Scottish Games Awards

The following piece was written by George Miller and originally appeared in European Gaming 28th October 2022.


The winners of the first-ever Scottish Games Awards were announced following a gala ceremony which took place on Thursday, 27th of October. The inaugural awards ceremony took place at Malmaison, Dundee and was the climax of Scottish Games Week, which saw events take place all over the country in a bid to showcase games as Scotland’s secret weapon in the tech sector.

Celebrating the very best of the games industry across Scotland, the winners include Dundee studio Team Terrible whose title ‘The Baby In Yellow’ was crowned Best Small-Budget Game, Aberdeenshire’s Brilliant Skies Ltd who won the Technical Achievement award, and BAFTA-winning Amicable Animal who have now lifted the Audio trophy for its work on SOLAS 128. With a Glasgow-based lead writer and artists from Edinburgh, ION LANDS’ epic Cloudpunk won three titles-  Art and Animation, Creativity and Best Large-Budget Game, while Dundonian games industry veteran David Jones won the Lifetime Achievement award.

The Scottish Games Awards winners in full are:

Art and Animation

  • Cloudpunk (ION LANDS)

Audio

  • SOLAS 128 (Amicable Animal)

Best Educational Programme

  • Dundee & Angus College: HN Games Development

Best Educator

  • Dr Lynn Love

Best Large-Budget Game

  • Cloudpunk (ION LANDS)

Best Small-Budget Game

  • The Baby in Yellow (Team Terrible)

Creativity

  • Cloudpunk (ION LANDS)

Diversity Champion

  • Tanya Laird

Lifetime Achievement

  • David Jones

Stewart Gilray Award (Community Spirit)

  • Colin MacDonald

Technical Achievement

  • From the Depths (Brilliant Skies Ltd.)

Tools and Technology

  • Dislectek

Chaired by renowned journalist and author Chris Scullion, the award winners were selected by a jury of games industry experts with a deep knowledge of the sector, including:

  • Brian Baird: Technical Director at Bethesda Games Studios Austin

  • Joe Donnelly: Feature Writer at GamesRadar+

  • Alisdair Gunn: Director at Glasgow City Innovation District

  • Steven Hamill: COO at Scottish Edge

  • Keza MacDonald: Video Games Editor at The Guardian

  • Jim Trinca: Games journalist and video producer

  • Jo Twist: CEO of UKIE

Chris Scullion, journalist and author of The NES Encyclopaedia said: “It’s been a huge honour to chair the judging panel for the inaugural Scottish Games Awards. The quality of the nominees is a perfect indicator of the enormous degree of talent that can be found in the Scottish games industry, and I’m looking forward to the awards (and Scottish Games Week as a whole) acting as a catalyst to help the industry grow from strength to strength.”

Angus Robertson, Culture Secretary, said: “Scotland has a world class reputation for games development as the winners of the first Scottish Games Awards have clearly demonstrated.

“The focus this week on the dynamism of the games sector and its growth potential shows the important role the industry has in supporting our economy. The technology and creativity that drives the sector has also brought benefits to other key areas such as education, healthcare, energy and financial services.”

Brian Baglow, Director of Scottish Games Week and Founder of the Scottish Games Network said: “The level of creativity and technical expertise across Scotland is outstanding, as is the passion, enthusiasm and commitment that we see from so many people across the whole games ecosystem. Today we are celebrating those achievements and turning the spotlight on the individuals, organisations and games that make Scotland’s games community such a vibrant and fun place to be.

“As the culmination of Scottish Games Week, these awards are a stake in the ground which proclaim that games are important, that we have a significant role to play in Scotland’s future and that we are going to be a far larger, louder and more prominent part of Scotland’s digital future.”

The Scottish Games Awards concluded Scottish Games Week, an expertly curated week of events across Scotland, with events focussing on onboarding the uninitiated, bringing together educational institutions and the games ecosystem.

Scottish Games Week is being delivered by the Scottish Games Network and is supported by the Scottish Government’s Ecosystem Fund, delivered as part of its Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review (STER) programme. Scottish Games Week is sponsored by 4J Studios, Blackadders LLP, Johnston Carmichael, YAHAHA, Aream and Co, Escape Technology, 4Players, NLAE and The SQA. Scottish Games Week is supported by partners Barclays Eagle Labs, Barclays Games & Esports Team, CodeBase, Dimoso, GT Omega, Digital Xtra Fund and Citizen Ticket.

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24 Oct 2022

Incremental provides continued support to Digital Xtra Fund

The following was published by Incremental Group on 19th October 2022 following the announcement of the 2022/23 grant recipients.


Incremental’s continued partnership with Digital Xtra Fund contributes to digital skills initiatives for young people in Scotland.

Incremental is proud to provide continued support to Digital Xtra Fund – a Scottish charity aiming to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities, regardless of background. Since the charity’s conception in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has granted £875k of funding, backing digital skills initiatives in schools and public organisations.

This year, Digital Xtra Fund has been able to award 50% more funding than in 2021 due to funders like Incremental. The charity’s £150k of fundraising this year has been distributed via 35 grants in 24 local authorities throughout Scotland – spanning primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities, libraries and other educational bodies – reaching around 7,500 young people. Some examples of these fantastic digital skills initiatives include extracurricular clubs dedicated to coding, robotics, digital creators, engineering and inventing.

Incremental is dedicated to investing in Scotland’s young people, believing that learning digital skills is crucial in an evolving digital world. Alongside other funding partners like ScotlandIS and J.P. Morgan, Incremental hope to inspire the next generation through digital technology by working with Digital Xtra Fund to remove some of the access barriers that previously existed.

In 2021, only 16% of those enrolled in computing degrees at university were women, and Incremental’s partnership with Digital Xtra Fund seeks to narrow this gender digital skills gap by encouraging girls and young women into STEM subjects. For example, two of this year’s grant beneficiaries include a ‘Girls in Gaming’ club at North Berwick Library and an all-girls robotics club at Kirkliston Primary School in Edinburgh. Overall, the 35 initiatives funded through Digital Xtra Fund will reach 3,800 girls and young women. This aligns with Incremental’s commitment to gender inclusion in the workplace – you can learn about Incremental’s collaboration with Microsoft’s TechHer initiative, encouraging more women into careers in the tech industry here.

Kimberley Watson, Senior People Business Partner at Incremental Group said “As we enter the era of the digital imperative, it is crucial that the next generation are equipped with the necessary skills to thrive in a digital world. Digital Xtra Fund is doing an amazing job of inspiring young people to broaden their digital skills through meaningful (and fun!) digital initiatives, and we are proud to support this”.

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07 Oct 2022

It’s time to stop making excuses. Getting more women in tech must underpin efforts to create an inclusive digital economy

The following piece was written by Polly Purvis OBE, a Trustee and Chair for Digital Xtra Fund as well as Deputy Chair at Converge Challenge. She is also a former CEO of ScotlandIS and Chair of CodeClan. It originally appeared in FutureScot on 7th October 2022.


When Apple CEO Tim Cook made a rare appearance in London last month, he had one simple and very powerful message to share: we need more women in tech, and there is no excuse for failing to achieve gender equality.

Everyone wants a more diverse workforce and equity of opportunity, but there are some very specific reasons for requiring more women to join the sector.

At the most basic level, it is a simple matter of understanding and respecting your customer base. At least 50 per cent of global consumers are women, so when new products are being developed it is essential that women are involved from the design stage right through the process.

I’ve seen some software teams that really have no clue about how women will interact with their systems, and it is easy to see how AI can go on to perpetrate unintentional bias if the data on which they act is incomplete or worse still incorporates stereotypes.

We also need more women starting businesses. That is true not just of tech but across the board. One of the issues is that women tend to be more risk averse, but we need to consider how to harness that. More encouragement would also be welcome. Women are often early adopters of products, whether they be new foods or new tech, so there is an opportunity to actively engage with women and support them as entrepreneurs.

Education is a key challenge. For years women have been underrepresented in STEM university courses and occupations. It is estimated that only about 19 per cent of computer science students are female, and it is the same picture for engineering and technology. Female students make up more than a third (37 per cent) of mathematical sciences students, which is a relative improvement but still not good enough. Apple itself only has about 35 per cent women in its workforce.

CodeClan, Scotland’s industry-led and only SQA-accredited digital skills academy, has made good progress in recruiting and training women but the split is still about 60/40 in favour of male students.

One problem is that girls and young women, particularly around the late primary school and early high school stage, are receiving the wrong messages as part of careers advice. This isn’t always via the school – it can also be from parents who view other occupations as more appealing, for example financial services and law – so we need to redouble our efforts to promote computing science and technology as attractive, well paid career options.

And, despite the best efforts of the Scottish Government, we don’t have enough computing teachers. Graduates can earn three or four times more by going straight into software development and engineering, so it is not difficult to see why teaching is being left behind. But it is vital that we boost numbers and make computing as accessible as possible if we are to address the gender gap.

Extracurricular opportunities must also be supported. Digital Xtra Fund is a brilliant scheme that provides grants to organisations delivering digital and tech activities to young people across Scotland, such as dressCode, a charity which delivers lunchtime clubs for girls aged 11-23, focused on games design, web development and cyber security. SmartSTEMs is another excellent third sector organisation inspiring young people aged 10-14, especially girls, by hosting and organising events in schools. Making computing fun and exciting is important if we are to successfully engage with girls and other underrepresented groups – so let’s see this continue and expand further, as part of the plans.

Sadly, we still don’t have enough senior women in tech in Scotland but having positive role models in place is definitely helping to drive change. And we need to ensure women are at the forefront in all areas of tech from usability to software engineering, sales to project management – not just the areas which have traditionally been dominated by females such as HR. On a positive note, there is early evidence that more women are coming through in data science, but greater representation must be across the board. If that means embracing an element of positive discrimination, so be it.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight. There are many positive initiatives underway in Scotland, but societal shifts take much longer than we think and need a great deal of reinforcement. The next 10 years are crucial and what we do now will determine our future success as an inclusive digital economy that recognises and creates opportunities for all.

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30 Sep 2022

Developing Scotland’s Tech Skills – Karen Meechan

The following thought leadership piece was written by Karen Meechan, CEO at ScotlandIS and Trustee for Digital Xtra Fund. It originally appeared in The Scotsman on 30 September 2022.


This has been a year of change for Scotland’s tech sector. Costs are rising and a recession is forecast; businesses are trying to balance what works best on the spectrum of office to home-based working; talent is not as available as it might have been previously yet the desire to adopt new technologies and digitise the economy is stronger than ever.

Last week saw our first gathering of the Scottish tech sector at our annual event, ScotSoft, where we considered these challenges, and the opportunity that they could represent. ScotSoft brings together academics, researchers, students, visionaries, technologists, business leaders and managers working in digital companies and end user businesses in Scotland, the UK and further afield.

As part of the event, we recognise some of the best minds coming from our universities that demonstrate the strength and breadth of tech talent being developed within Scotland in our Young Software Engineer Awards.

An Abertay University student, Daniel Gearie, took first place at our annual Young Software Engineer of the Year Awards for creating software that can physically locate the position of a drone operator, as he and three other students were recognised for creating ideas which show an impressive combination of innovation, creativity and scalability.

From the discussion that happened throughout the day, it was widely agreed that the future business environment remains very challenging, and whilst the sector is set to continue to make significant contributions to Scotland’s economy, it is not immune to macro influences.

Indeed, the Scottish tech sector has already been subject to a long-endured skills gap, but the attractiveness of Scottish talent to London and Silicon Valley, and labour shortages elsewhere, are adding further complexities to the labour situation in our sector.

Just before ScotSoft, we conducted a pulse survey of the Scottish tech leaders amongst our membership. The results emphasised this challenge, while showing that the sector is working to address it. Three quarters of Scotland’s tech companies have increased benefits for their workers in the past twelve months, with nearly every single one (95%) doing so to make them a more competitive employer. For half, it was to help them retain existing employees too.

This challenge is just one reason why we cannot sit still. The good news is that there are a range of ways we can collectively contribute to the digital sector’s success.

Our digital technologies companies have always depended on Scotland’s excellent academic institutions to supply a steady stream of talent; on Government support and funding for innovation; on collaboration within the sector to solve common challenges; and on us as a trade body to create solutions for the issues that are most pressing.

That is why with Skills Development Scotland we created CodeClan and the Digital Xtra Fund, and why we are currently working on the roll-out of our Digital Critical Friends programme, which has been developed to help inspire and educate school aged pupils on STEM subjects.

With over a thousand of Scotland’s tech community under one roof last week, it was made clear that the appetite to work together to support and invest in our sector remains strong.

We must now harness that appetite to provide the sector with the talent, investment, and space for innovation that it needs to continue to thrive.

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23 May 2022

National roll-out of micro:bits to Scotland’s primary schools

The following article originally appeared on Micro:bit Educational Foundation website on 23rd May 2022.


Scotland’s Education Secretary celebrates world-leading investment in Computing Science at primary age with school visit. Methilhill Primary School in Fife, Scotland, welcomed Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, for a visit to meet children using the new micro:bit coding devices. The tiny computers are being given to all primary, secondary and additional support needs schools in Scotland as part of a landmark investment to improve the quality of, and participation in, computing science and digital literacy in Scottish schools.

Delivered by education non-profit, The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the micro:bits are pocket-size entry-level coding devices that offer children an enjoyable entry into coding and computing science. There are over six million devices already in use across the globe, including most UK secondary schools. In the coming weeks, all primary schools across Scotland will receive twenty devices alongside a host of new teaching resources tailored for primary school level in a world-leading investment from the Scottish Government to develop digital skills in even younger children.

During her visit, Somerville saw the devices come to life in the hands of children aged between 6-8 in an exciting, interactive lesson around health and wellbeing. micro:bit ambassadors shared an insight into the wide range of capabilities the nifty devices offer, while teachers at the school explained first-hand how the new investment is helping integrate digital skills and computational thinking into lessons across the entire curriculum as part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review programme.

Investing in future skills

Digital skills and computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, recent research from The Micro:bit Educational Foundation found that 61% of primary school teachers in the UK responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, while three in five cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Scottish Government: “It has been inspiring to see first-hand how these devices can help to get children thinking creatively and to be enthused about technology. It’s an exciting prospect to imagine these scenes being replicated in schools all over Scotland in the coming weeks and months, and we’re proud to be leading the world in creating quality engagement in computing sciences among our young learners.”

Aimée Fagan, Head of Partnerships at Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are increasingly important core skills, and we know the earlier you learn them, the better. Today has been a brilliant showcase of the possibilities micro:bits offer in the hands of younger children and how accessible they can make the first steps into computing.”

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Alix Rolland, Deputy Head Teacher at Methilhill Primary School, added: “We’re committed to embedding computing science and digital literacy into our classrooms, right across the curriculum. It’s been a joy to see the first of many micro:bit sessions at Methilhill Primary School today, and the support from Micro:bit has given our teachers the tools and confidence they need to get our children inspired by technology.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

·      developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them

·      creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons

·      working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every S1 / Year 7 student as part of BBC Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 5 – 11-year olds.

The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland.  Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGOs.

The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.

Editorial enquiries

You can contact the Micro:bit Educational Foundation at [email protected]

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04 May 2022

How CGI’s commitment to diversity is providing opportunities for the next generation of Scots to forge careers in tech

The following was written by CGI, and originally posted in Business Scotland.


The technology sector is flourishing. Opportunities that come with skilled jobs are continuing to grow apace. But for some, that world of opportunity can still feel light years away.

That is why companies like CGI have committed themselves to not only invest in a skilled workforce, but also make sure that workforce is diverse, with opportunities to show their talent in an equal and inclusive workplace.

In Scotland today, the hunt is on to find the next generation of coders, cyber security experts and systems engineers. Since CGI established its presence north of the border, it has built up its own diverse workforce thanks to its commitment to investing in a skilled workforce.

It does so through its recruitment of apprentices. In 2012, the global IT business consulting services company introduced its Graduate Apprenticeships Programme to Scotland. The programme sees CGI work in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh Napier University to attract young people with a passion for technology.

Students study towards a four-year BSc Honours degree – in Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian or IT Management for Business at Napier – while also spending time to develop their career on real-life projects at the company, which has offices in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Those chosen are given a permanent contract from Day One, with a paid starting salary of £19,000. Maria Whittingham, Early Careers Recruitment Specialist at CGI, says such a starting salary provides a huge opportunity for people who might otherwise not consider a career in STEM due to the cost of a more traditional university education.

She said: “CGI is all about providing opportunities for students from every type of background, and this is a brilliant opportunity for people to progress their careers as well as their education.

“The way these opportunities are structured is meant to be totally inclusive: it takes into account those who may have different learning styles, and who in fact benefit far more from complementing their learning with real-life experience in a work setting.

“So at CGI, we are both growing our own talent and widening our outlook, perspectives and viewpoints because our workforce has become much more diverse.”

CGI currently has eight graduate apprentices in Scotland. Glasgow Caledonian’s Software Development for Business course is more technology based while Napier’s is an IT Management for Business degree.

Maria continued: “There are also technical graduate opportunities for people with an interest in IT, software development and software testing. For these roles we accept graduates from all degree disciplines but they do need to show some evidence of skills like programming.

“People with STEM degrees tend to go for technology posts, but we have also had people from other degree backgrounds who have an interest in programming. For them, we provide all the training they need when they join the company.”

Within CGI, the company is determined to break the gender bias in technology. Nearly 4 in 10 members of its senior leadership team in the UK are women, while more than 90% of female staff –– known as members – put forward for promotion were successful this year.

CGI recently joined the Valuable 500 – a global movement putting disability on the business leadership agenda. Its own peer-to-peer network enables members with different disabilities or areas of interest to share ideas and provide mutual support.

CGI’s peer-to-peer network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members emphasises the importance of celebrating various cultures within CGI, while its LGBT+ network supports and represents UK members from all minority sexual orientations and gender identities.

The organisation has been shortlisted for Targetjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards 2022 for best diversity and inclusion strategy, best school leaver programme, best on-boarding experience and best virtual recruitment experience. Each award is voted on and determined exclusively by students, undergraduates and school leavers.

Additionally, CGI backs charities such as Digital Xtra Fund, who enable extracurricular tech activities for young people across Scotland and encourages young girls from all backgrounds to join coding clubs which inspire them to consider careers in digital tech.

One example is Southmuir Primary School, in Kirriemuir, Angus, which used a £5,000 grant provided by the Fund to set up a club exclusively for 32 girls from P4 to P7 – who otherwise might never have encountered such an opportunity – to enjoy engaging ways to learn to code. It was so popular that the school also set up an equivalent club for boys.

Karen-Ruth Phillips, PT Raising Attainment at Southmuir Primary, said: “The club has fostered a really fun way of learning coding and STEM, through receiving digital badges and certificates which they earn for completing different levels of their Code.org course.

“Engagement levels have been really high and the girls especially have not only enjoyed it themselves, they have even got their parents looking into additional coding and STEM activities.”

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, said: “Our goal is for every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and meaningful activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. This goal has been encapsulated perfectly by the excellent STEM club at Southmuir.”

Lyndsey Teaz, Vice President and Scotland Business Unit Leader (Interim), said: “CGI believes passionately in supporting the communities in which we live and work and it has never been more important to encourage talent and innovation in our sector.

“It is tremendous to see so many young people from all over the country, from different backgrounds. I personally, being a woman in tech, am delighted to see more young girls developing a huge enthusiasm for STEM education.

“We are committed to helping more and more people on their journey and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months and years.”

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