Inspiring the Next Generation and Reducing Scotland’s Digital Skills Gap: Insights from Our Inaugural Event

On Wednesday 5th June, Livingston James hosted the first instalment of our new technology event series in partnership with Toni Scullion.  The series aims to explore ways to reduce Scotland’s digital skills gap and inspire the next generation to enter the world of tech.

Most of the tech community will be familiar with Toni Scullion; but for those who are not, Toni is a computing science teacher, founder of the charity dressCode and the Computing Science Scotland initiative, co-founder of Ada Scotland Festival, as well as co-lead of Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS).

Toni’s mission is to get more pupils into computing science from a young age and inspire the next generation, particularly girls who are underrepresented in the industry. It was fantastic to hear about Toni’s first-hand experience of computing science in schools, as well as the practical and inspiring ways people can make a difference to the future of the industry.

 

A recent report from Reform Scotland stated:

  • More than 32,000 children – one in eight of all secondary pupils – attend a secondary school with no qualified computing science teacher. This rises to around 50% in rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands
  • 66 secondary schools have no computing science teacher, including 27 with a school roll of over 500 and 10 with more than 1,000 pupils
  • 25 secondary schools with a roll above 1,000 pupils have only one qualified computing science teacher
  • Not all pupils have computing science as a compulsory subject in S1 and S2, and those who do are mostly taught by specialists in other subjects
  • There’s been a 25% drop in the number of computing science teachers over the last 15 years
  • There is a large gender divide in the subject, with girls comprising only one in five entries to Higher computing science 
  • We’re seeing a long-term decline in entries to study computing science at both National 5 and Higher levels

 

Role models for pupils are incredibly important, and with the new Choose Computing Science campaign about to go live, we met with a group of inspiring technology leaders to gain their insights and support on how we can connect education and industry. Our goal is to collaborate in order to contribute to the continued growth and advancement of the industry, helping to shape the future and leave a lasting impact on the world of technology.

At Livingston James, our event series this year is focused on ‘Connecting Industries’, with the aim to connect all sectors across public, private and not for profit organisations; this inaugural event encapsulated just that! We were joined by several tech leaders and C-suite professionals representing a variety of industries such as education, finance, engineering and technology. The breadth of attendees sparked vibrant, engaging conversations around how we can encourage the next generation to consider a career in technology.

Scotland’s tech market is facing a significant skills shortage, driven by the rapid expansion of the tech sector, which is exceeding the availability of qualified professionals. To protect the future of the technology sector, Computing Science must be promoted to everyone from a young age. Additional pressure comes from a lack of teachers of the subject to fulfil the demand from pupils or encourage uptake. One attendee within the education sector outlined how a lack of Computing Science teachers elsewhere has led to them streaming classes to pupils in other schools; however, this presents additional challenges such as reduced engagement and timetable conflicts.

 

Key takeaways from the session:

  • A rebrand of the subject is required to position computing science in a more positive light; the opportunities and challenges the industry tackles should be front and centre
  • Industry leaders have a responsibility to educate the government on what the future curriculum should look like, offering insights on emerging technology and skill requirements
  • A series of targeted ‘interventions’ at every age and stage of education are required to encourage pupils to choose computing science
  • Parents require better education about the opportunities the tech sector offers; including information regarding excellent salaries, breadth of types of roles and the opportunity for tech professionals to be part of solving real-world issues
  • The highest profile global problems will be solved with tech from global warming to poverty, giving young people the opportunity to be part of future-proofing the world we live in and to have an exceptional impact on our evolution in an increasingly technological landscape
  • Despite best intentions, several industry leaders do not know where to start when it comes to giving back to the next generation – this is where we are here to help!

 

It was fantastic to witness industry leaders offer their support to this mission, commit to practical actions and contribute to the continued growth and advancement of the industry they have all had impressive careers in.

 

This is the first event in the Livingston James partnership series with Toni Scullion. If you are interested in joining future events, please contact [email protected] for more information.

 

 

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