14 Jun 2018

Angus Young Engineers: The CAD/CAM Café

Angus Young EngineersAngus Young Engineers (AYE) are an afterschool engineering education based charity, dedicated to steering young people into education and careers involving STEM. This year, with support from Digital Xtra Fund, AYE are building on the successful projects they have delivered since 2003, with the launch of The CAD/CAM Café, a programme to facilitate peer-to-peer learning at Forfar Academy and primary schools in the catchment area.

Taking advantage of Angus Secondary schools’ timetables, which gives all secondary school pupils Friday afternoon off, The CAD/CAM Café is a digital-skills employability project that works on two levels to inspire young people into the digital world of work, and to fill local skills gaps in digital manufacture.

The CAD/CAM Café

Angus Young EngineersThis year a group of 20 pupils aged 12-16 from Forfar Community campus will get the chance to take part in a programme of workshops on 3D Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing, 3D Scanning, and Digital Manufacturing using 3D printers and 2D laser cutters. Working in groups of four, the young participants will take on role play jobs that reflect the local industry. Supported by AYE’s industry mentors and STEM ambassadors, pupils will gain valuable employability skills as they progress through the 20 week programme – working towards certificates of Digital Manufacturing Confidence, with bronze awarded after 10 weeks, silver after 20 weeks of the programme, and the opportunity to achieve a gold award by acting as mentors and tutors to a local primary school.

DronesThe second aspect of The CAD/CAM Café will see the 20 pupils from AYE introduce 230 P6 pupils in 3 urban and 5 rural primary schools to a 3D scanning and printing activity that the Café participants have been developing. Primary school pupils will work in groups to scan their peers’ heads to make 3D portraits, be introduced to 3D CAD, navigate Thingi-verse and 3D print an object to complete a design task to make a drone flight-ready. As with the Secondary school programme, pupils will have the opportunity to roleplay exciting real-life situations from the digital tech sector like designing and testing drones on missions to deliver antidotes to remote locations. Each group will work with a secondary school mentor who is working towards their Gold Digital Manufacturing Confidence certificate, with support from other Senior Young Engineers Leaders and the schools’ primary school transition programmes.

As with many of the Fund’s supported projects, AYE are committed to inspiring girls into STEM, with a particular focus on promoting this project to girls. Woman AYE coaches act as positive role models to young female participants, and AYE have also established a link with Girl Guiding in Forfar, running regular taster sessions to attract girls into STEM-based activities after school.

Bob Baldie, Chairman of AYE, said, “The grant from Digital Xtra Fund has given Angus Young Engineers the ability to engage and inspire more young people across Angus through digital skills-based activities. These activities enhance their employability chances while giving insight into future STEM careers, especially in the increasingly important area of digital manufacturing.”

Angus Young EngineersAYE’s CAD/CAM Café is one of 11 initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant awards, contributing to our goal to give every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. These awards are made possible by the valued support of the Fund’s partners, sponsors and funders. To help us continue this work in 2018/19, find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future here.

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25 May 2018

West College Scotland: Renfrewshire Coding Clubs

Inspiring young people to become the next generation of coders and technologists, West College Scotland’s Renfrewshire Coding Clubs are uniquely placed to inspire pupils, college students, and teachers through a programme of extracurricular activities, a network of college STEM Ambassadors, and a CPD programme to engage teachers in the local community.

Originally launched in 2016 with support from Digital Xtra Fund, this year sees West College Scotland expand their Coding Clubs to another 3 Renfrewshire secondary schools in partnership with Renfrewshire Council’s Digital Participation team and the Education Department. Support for the expansion has been generously provided by BT Scotland. BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries and recently confirmed their continued support of Digital Xtra Fund into 2019.

 

Renfrewshire Coding Clubs

West College ScotlandThe Renfrewshire Coding Clubs are aimed at S1 and S2 pupils who will soon be thinking about their elective subject choices. The afterschool Coding Clubs deliver activities in a fun and informal way that engages young people, builds their skills, and stimulates their interest in computing science and digital technologies. Senior staff from the College’s computing faculty work with a team of West College Scotland STEM Ambassadors to run the weekly clubs, recruited from the College’s HNC and HND students. This provides the students with a unique opportunity to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for computing science with school pupils, while giving the college students valuable work experience that supports their current studies and their future careers in STEM.

The Coding Clubs are fun and exciting, engaging young people with hands-on computing experiences such as the micro:bit, which allows them to learn to code using a block programming-type language and create games, graphics, and sounds. Pupils get a glimpse of emerging and new technologies too, with sessions on virtual reality tools, held at West College Scotland’s Virtual Reality Lab on their Paisley Campus.

West College ScotlandAlongside the Coding Clubs, West College Scotland has also delivered CPD sessions in association with Microsoft Education, Renfrewshire Council, and Paisley YMCA to Renfrewshire primary and secondary school teachers. Focused on increasing the teachers’ confidence and encouraging the use of coding in the classroom, these sessions are vital for the legacy of this project as these teachers will take over managing the current Coding Clubs, as well as initiating new ones, with the assistance of the STEM Ambassadors and senior school pupils. Additional support for the CPD sessions and Coding Clubs comes from The Micro:bit Foundation, who donated 500 micro:bits to this project, giving each teacher their own classroom set to help make coding in the classroom fun and easy.

West College Scotland principal and chief executive Audrey Cumberford said: “New and emerging technologies are transforming the workplace and the skills people will need for the jobs of tomorrow. At West College Scotland our ambition is to be a high performing digital college. We recognise the vital role we play in supporting and developing the digital skills of the young people in our region. We are proud of the partnership with our local schools, Renfrewshire Council, BT Scotland and Digital Xtra Fund.”

West College ScotlandBT Scotland has supported Digital Xtra Fund since its launch, and its valuable support has allowed the Fund to inspire young people across Scotland with digital technologies. Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “BT is right behind Digital Xtra Fund because we believe every young Scot needs to learn digital skills as a basic along with reading and writing. West College Scotland coding clubs engage young people in a fun and informal way and it’s great that more S1 and 2 pupils are getting the chance to learn skills which could potentially lead to a career in digital technology. It’s vital that industry works with educators and the wider public sector to tackle the digital skills shortage and prepare young people for the future world of work.”

West College Scotland’s Coding Clubs is one of 11 initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant awards, contributing to our goal to give every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. These awards are made possible by the valued support of BT Scotland, a Digital Xtra Partner, and many others in Scotland’s tech industry, through sponsorship, donations and in-kind support. To help us continue this work, find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future here.

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09 May 2018

McLaren High School: [email protected] Festival

Since January, we’ve been looking at the 11 initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund in 2018; initiatives which will engage over 3,200 young people in digital technologies. With projects ranging from coding workshops to designing model Formula 1 cars, from programming problem-solving robots to learning about lighthouses, Digital Xtra Fund has proven the ways in which young people can learn about and be inspired by digital tech are broad and wide-ranging.

 

[email protected] Festival

McLaren HS DronesContinuing this diverse range of projects is McLaren High School’s [email protected] Festival. This initiative is aimed at S3-S5 pupils at McLaren High School in Stirling, supporting them to design and build creative STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) projects which will be presented to industry experts and the general public at the school’s STEM Festival in Summer 2018. McLaren High School is the only secondary school in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and serves the largest rural catchment area in mainland Scotland.

In 2018, there will be 50 young people taking part, each developing their own project inspired by STEM which they will then go on to present at the school’s [email protected] Festival. Projects are varied and cross-curricular, but all will involve elements of digital technologies. By encouraging pupils to choose their own subject matter and then think creatively about it, pupils are applying STEM concepts to their own interests and hobbies which may not be included in traditional STEM themes or subjects.

Plans being worked up this year include: a collapsible laser harp, designed by a young music-lover where the harp’s strings are replaced by lasers controlled by a Raspberry Pi; a programmable robot hand; an electric skateboard controlled by a single board computer; a programmable infinity mirror; and a project looking at factors that affect facial recall at crime scenes using computer generated composite photos designed by a young person interested in forensics.

McLaren HS AppsBy encouraging young people to tackle complex problems by breaking them down into a series of smaller problems, these projects will teach computational thinking and design as a process. Participants are encouraged to work on their projects primarily in their own time but will also receive support and advice from industry experts and academics, giving them first-hand experience of planning and project management, alongside improving their communication skills, networking, resilience, judgement and decision making.

Martin Macmillan, STEM co-ordinator at McLaren High School said “The [email protected] Festival is all about inspiring the next generation of engineers while delivering vital skills in computational thinking and problem solving.  Working with Digital Xtra Fund has enabled us to break down the barriers that exist in providing extra-curricular activities in a rural area.  It has also helped us target the gender imbalance that exists within the STEM industries, with the Festival having an equal number of female and male participants.  Feedback from our students indicates they recognise that the skills they are learning are applicable to all of their school subjects and are also essential skills that they can carry throughout their life regardless of future career plans.”

McLaren HS MicroscopesThe [email protected] Festival is one of 11 initiatives Digital Xtra Fund is supporting in 2018. This is made possible by our sponsors and funders who contribute to our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

 

McLaren High School’s [email protected] Festival will take place on Saturday 8th September with 50 pupils demonstrating their projects, alongside a robotics competition with teams from 8 Scottish primary schools. You can follow this project on their Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/McLarenSTEM

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04 Apr 2018

The Prince’s Trust: #PTDigiDay

Every young person in Scotland should have access to a computing or digital skills activity, regardless of their background, gender, or where they live. Perhaps that is why #PTDigiDay by The Prince’s Trust is so relevant. The Prince’s Trust work with some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged school-age young people through their Achieve Programme, delivered in schools within the most deprived areas in Scotland as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). The Achieve programme is for young people who are experiencing challenges with attendance, attainment, or motivation and may be at risk of exclusion or not attaining the grades they are capable of.

 

#PTDigiDay Digital Taster & Industry Days

Support from Digital Xtra Fund has allowed The Prince’s Trust to develop an extra-curricular digital project, #PTDigiDay, aimed at young people who are disengaging from school and unlikely to have any knowledge about potential future digital careers. 30 young people, aged 13-16, will be selected from their Achieve Programme in Glasgow to take part in introductory lessons in digital media and coding, delivered by expert delivery partners, youth workers, and young mentors (aged 25 or under) from their corporate partners Dell EMC and NVT Group.

The #PTDigiDay Digital Taster & Industry days are designed to give young people a hands-on experience of working in the digital technologies sector using interactive and engaging practical activities. The first of these days was delivered in The Prince’s Trust Wolfson Centre in February, and further events are scheduled as part of the Trust’s Achieve and ‘Mosaic’ school-based programmes. Young participants have the opportunity to speak directly to employers, apprenticeship providers and colleges, who will also be taking part in the day, with the aim of encouraging young people to consider careers in the digital and information technology sector.

The Prince's Trust #PTDigiDay Split into two sessions, the Taster and Industry days’ aim is to introduce young people to digital technology in fun and creative ways: from creating prototypes for 3D printers, to basic games design, filming and editing in the morning; to learning how to code using micro-bit mini-computers in the afternoon in #generationcode – linking coding to real-world issues, with activity themed around Science and Technology, Health and Wellbeing, Personal and Global Citizenship and Creative Arts.

Over half of Scotland’s young people do not achieve 5 National Fives and those from disadvantaged backgrounds consistently do less well than their peers. There is an unacceptable gap in attainment and achievement between children from our most and least advantaged backgrounds, so this project will prioritise young people who are ‘at risk’ and looking likely to leave school within six months, who are unlikely to attain five National 5s, and those not engaging in any digital and/or information technology classes within their normal school curriculum. #PTDigiDay will break down perceptions of digital skills being a highly technical/mathematical subject, and show young people that careers in this area aren’t out of their reach.

The Prince's Trust #PTDigiDayCath Mitchell, Volunteers Executive and Sean Dimeo, Fundraising Administrator said, “Without support from Digital Xtra Fund, this project would not have been possible. Their backing has allowed us to recruit and further train our talented young mentors, as well as attract digital technology entrepreneurs to deliver stimulating activity sessions. Furthermore, with their support, we have been able to secure a supply of micro:bits for use after the project’s conclusion. This will allow young people to continue to hone their coding skills at their own pace and pass on this knowledge to peers. Thank you to Digital Xtra Fund for their support”

 

The Prince’s Trust is one of 11 initiatives Digital Xtra Fund is supporting in 2018, which will introduce over 3,200 young people to high-level computing skills. This is made possible by our sponsors and funders who contribute to our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

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14 Mar 2018

Edinburgh International Science Festival: Robo Constructors

Alongside their annual festival, which is celebrating its 30th edition in 2018, Edinburgh International Science Festival also travels across Scotland each year from January to May with their primary schools outreach programme, Generation Science, engaging almost 60,000 children across all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. Generation Science inspires young people through a variety of exciting hands-on activities and workshops covering a wide range of STEM subjects from life sciences to digital technologies. It has been running for over 28 years and is the country’s largest and longest-running touring extracurricular STEM education programme.

 

Robo Constructors

This week’s blog, the 6th of our highlighted 11 initiatives, looks at how support from Digital Xtra Fund means this year’s Generation Science programme offers even more opportunity for young people to learn digital skills with their newest workshop, Robo Constructors. Ten schools in Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire will receive free workshops, allowing 300 of their pupils to take part in digital technology workshops that they would otherwise not have been able to access.

Robo Constructors WorkshopRobo Constructors is a fun, fast-moving workshop where pupils become mini-robot engineers, exploring open ended challenges to create their own novel, wacky and useful robots! Using Cubelets Robot Blocks, a simple and intuitive modular robotics system, young people will learn about the rules of robotics and logic as well as the steps behind the design process. They will discover how different components can change the behaviour of a robot, learn how different sensors can be used to control a robot’s movement, understand how to troubleshoot the construction of a robot to identify why it might not perform as expected, and use critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills to complete challenges.

Support from the Fund brings this workshop to schools which are amongst the most rurally isolated or suffer from the highest rates of deprivation, expanding the geographic reach of digital skills activities across Scotland. By making the workshop playful and fun, led by trained Science Communicators who make links between the workshop’s digital content and devices, companies and brands young people are familiar with, Robo Constructors will spark young people’s interest in computing science and digital technologies, encouraging them to continue studying these at school, and encouraging greater female participation in computing science.

Robo Constructors WorkshopJoan Davidson, Head of Education at Edinburgh International Science Festival, spoke about how Digital Xtra Fund is helping Generation Science to engage and inspire more young people and their teachers, “Generation Science is all about supporting the provision of science education in Scottish primary schools. We do this with a team of incredibly enthusiastic science communicators whose energy and passion for delivering engaging STEM activities inspires young learners and brings technology to life in the classroom. Working with organisations such as Digital Xtra Fund enables us to reach young people across Scotland wherever they may be. With the adoption of digital as part of the definition of STEM in the STEM education and training strategy for Scotland, it is vital that our young learners and their teachers have access to inspiring and engaging activities that not only cut across the curriculum but provide bridges to life outside the classroom and the wider world of work. There are many varied opportunities for our young people to engage and develop their digital skills and we will continue to support the development of this element of young people’s learning.”

 

Cubelets Robot BlocksGeneration Science is one of 11 initiatives Digital Xtra Fund is supporting in 2018, which will introduce over 3,200 young people to high-level computing skills. This is made possible by our sponsors and funders who contribute to our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

 

 #SciFive ticket offer

The 2018 Edinburgh International Science Festival will run from 31 March – 15 April. The programme is now live and is packed full of events for people of all ages. Teachers and students can also access £5 tickets for nearly 80 events in the Science Festival programme, thanks to their #SciFive ticket offer.

 Check out the programme here: https://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/whats-on

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01 Mar 2018

New College Lanarkshire: VEX Robotics Competition

VEX Robotics CompetitionInspiring young people into STEM using robotics, coding, and teamwork is the focus of the VEX Robotics Competition, an extracurricular programme where student teams design, build, and code robots to compete in an exciting global engineering challenge set annually by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation based in Greenville, Texas. The modular robot kits and variable challenges also promote skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and computational thinking while teaching students about the design process.

Leading the charge to grow this global initiative in Scotland is an exciting collaboration between the Faculty of Computing & Creative Industries and the Faculty of Engineering & Automotive at New College Lanarkshire in partnership with VEX Robotics and secondary schools in North Lanarkshire. Digital Xtra Fund is proud to support New College Lanarkshire to help grow this thrilling activity as one of the 11 initiatives funded in 2018.

Hard at workThe study of robotics links to all facets of STEM and New College Lanarkshire have developed an exciting programme that encourages young people to learn through exploration via hands-on, problem-based learning experiences. This year, 38 young people aged 12-16 from Lanarkshire have taken on the challenge of becoming robot designers adopting the roles of computer programmers, CAD designers, engineers, and robot pilots.

Paul McKnight, Head of Operations at VEX Robotics Europe said, “We are hugely appreciative of the support from the Digital Xtra Fund in helping to grow the cluster of schools working with New College Lanarkshire. Each year we see the level of competitiveness grow as the knowledge and understanding of the students increases. Together Digital Xtra Fund and New College Lanarkshire are helping to inspire Scotland’s next generation of STEM leaders.”

In The Zone ChallengeThese young robot-engineers recently got a chance to show off their creations and celebrate their new digital skills at the VEX Robotics Scottish Regional Finals on 2 February at the New College Lanarkshire Motherwell Campus. Teams competed in 2018’s ‘In The Zone’ challenge accumulated points by stacking cones, scoring goals and parking robots. Coding was key to maximising points as the robots also operated autonomously for the first 15 seconds of each round, giving teams the chance to earn even more points. The two highest scoring teams were the Alliance of Koala-T from Braidhurst High School and Jamie and the Generics from Airdrie Academy with each of these teams qualifying to compete in the UK National Championships on 2-3 March in Telford.

2017 Scottish Regional WinnersKoala-T were also winner of the Regional Design Award, judged this year by Digital Xtra Fund. The Design Award is presented to the team that best demonstrates an organised and professional approach to the design process, project and time management, and team organisation. During the robot’s design process teams must maintain an Engineering Notebook, documenting the progression of their robot from initial idea through to final testing. This helps the teams better understand the engineering design process while also practicing a variety of real life skills that will benefit in their academic and professional futures. As well as competing in the UK National Championships, this win also gives Koala-T opportunity to compete for the Design Award at the National level too!

In addition to their Regional Competition and Design Award wins, Koala-T team member Melissa Rodger also recently won The Diana Award for her work with young people engaging and exciting them in engineering, especially young girls. The Diana Award is a legacy to Diana, Princess of Wales’ belief that young people have the power to change the world. Through her love of science, Melissa has devoted her lunchtimes and evenings to lead a robotics club for younger, more vulnerable pupils within her school, creating a fun and welcoming learning environment. Her physics sessions are now so popular that there is a waiting list of pupils who want to join.

Airdrie Academy Power of 5Encouraging more young women to engage in STEM and computing science is a key aim of this initiative overall. Evidence of New College Lanarkshire’s success is apparent simply by the number of young women taking part, but it is exemplified by Power of 5 – the first all-female team from Airdrie Academy who also reached the UK Finals last year and were runner-up for the Design Award at this year’s Regional finals with their robot ‘KJ’. The team named their robot KJ after the iconic NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, whose computations have influenced every major space program from the Mercury missions through to the Space Shuttle, and who was the focus of 2017 film Hidden Figures, the untold story of female African-American mathematicians working at a segregated NASA during the 1960’s.

VEX Robots in the cornerUnfortunately, disruption across UK train services caused by the “Beast from the East” winter storm  has meant Koala-T and Jamie and the Generics are unable to attend the UK National Championships later this week in Telford. Both teams are understandably disappointed as they would have loved to attend. However, Digital Xtra Fund would still like to congratulate both teams on a job well done at the Scotland event and best of luck in the future. You can follow @NCLANVex on Twitter for the latest updates as well as updates on future tournaments.

 

Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant rounds, which support New College Lanarkshire’s VEX Robotics programme and many other inspirational projects, are made possible by the valued support of Scotland’s tech industry, supplying sponsorship, donations and in-kind support that all go towards our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

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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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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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