Tech 100: How the digital skills gap can be bridged

Written by Staff Reporter on 4 November 2016 in Feature

Young Scot's Louise Macdonald, SCVO’s David McNeill and CoderDojo Scotland's Craig Steele feature in latest Tech 100 instalment

Given forecasts suggest Scotland’s digital sector needs 11,000 new entrants a year, the question of skills is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

Straitened times can often dictate what answers are sought, although if handed a million pounds today to devote to the digital skills gap, what would you do with it? The latest three individuals to be included in our Tech 100, a rundown of who will lead Scotland’s digital transformation in 2017, offer their ideas. 

Be bold

If we’re to bridge the digital skills gap we need to be bold, imaginative and involve young people to co-create solutions. They are the real experts of their own experience and on how we should invest money to improve their lives.

We would invest in the infrastructure to fully leverage the potential of the Young Scot National Entitlement Card. The smart technology embedded in the Young Scot Card can already be used by public bodies to provide access to opportunities and services but by expanding its reach and functionality we will have a platform for service innovation with the ability to target interventions which tackle inequality without stigmatising young people.

Young people would work at local level to co-design the services and entitlements which could be added to the Young Scot smartcard – which would have the additional benefit of contributing to tackling the digital skills gap and also raising awareness among young people of the vital public services delivered locally.

The Young Scot smartcard is a shared asset to be further exploited in the crucial task of tackling poverty and disadvantage – we want young people to lead the way in showing us how.

Louise Macdonald (@Louisemac), chief executive of Young Scot. You can also check out her previous Tech 100 profile.

Focus on frontline

The internet plays a huge role in most of our lives. That makes it easy to forget that one in five adults in Scotland lack the basic digital skills to fully benefit from the internet. These people are more likely to be older, poorer and facing other forms of inequality.

We know that building basic digital skills can transform lives. Through our work to increase digital participation, we’ve learned that one of the best ways to achieve this is by building the confidence of frontline staff working to tackle poverty and inequality to support people to go online. So, my first investment would be in developing more local digital champions.

If money was left over, I’d encourage employers to invest in developing their workforce, building appropriate digital skills for the modern workplace - it’s not just Office applications now. I’d also ask young people how they’d increase interest in STEM careers, including digital.

David McNeill (@David_McNeill), digital director for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)

Break the code

One way to address the digital skills gap would be to give those from other disciplines and backgrounds the chance to get hands-on with coding. By allowing artists, writers, journalists, medical professionals and others the chance to experiment with technology, it will help demystify digital.

A research studio bringing together STEM and the arts sounds like a great investment. If Scotland wants to innovate in this area and solve problems using technology, there’s never been a more exciting time to switch on to digital skills.

Craig Steele (@CoderScot), leader at CoderDojo Scotland and based at Glasgow Science Centre. You can also check out his previous Tech 100 profile.

Each Friday we'll bring you a roundup of key people at the forefront of their sector. 

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