New ScotlandIS scholarship to bring ‘long-term’ boost to tech talent, chief executive says
ScotlandIS has launched a programme to empower young Scottish talent as it looks to bridge the digital skills gap.
By partnering with tutoring organisation Saturday School, the programme will support twelve students in the Glasgow and West area with their National 5 (N5) maths qualification “to get them to look at a STEM career”, Karen Meechan, chief executive of ScotlandIS told Holyrood.
If chosen students receive at least a grade D in their final exam, they will be “automatically fast-tracked” into a range of courses in Glasgow Clyde or Glasgow City College, Meechan said.
Courses accessible through the scholarship include NCs, NQs and HNDs in areas ranging from cybersecurity and software engineering to esports and computer game design.
The partnership chose the N5 maths qualification as despite being “a typical requirement” for most courses, it has proven to be “one of the most difficult to pass over recent years”, Meechan explained. As of 2023, 62.4 per cent of N5 maths entries gained an A-C pass, which was a drop of more than seven per cent from the year prior.
However, amid a cost-of-living crisis and with the average price of a tutor in the UK standing at £28 per hour, according to online teaching support site Sherpa, tutoring has become a luxury many can't afford.
“It difficult is to find them (tutors) and it is expensive, and not everyone can afford that, so this will hopefully help those 12 students take that next step and excite them in what a potential career path in STEM could be,” Meechan said.
The scholarship includes six weekly lessons in National 5 maths at Saturday School in The Glasgow Academy, attendance at The National 5 Maths Grade Booster Day to prepare for the final exam and unlimited online support from Saturday School’s fully qualified maths teachers.
Participants will also receive coaching and support from a list of relevant industry leaders, which is yet to be revealed.
“We will probably use lot of people from our digital critical friends programmme, from senior software engineers to data scientists. But, we will also make sure that it aligns with what's been taught at Saturday school”.
Among volunteers for this program is Fiona Anderson, who is a current project manager at PDWS - a software development and digital transformation service provider, and has a master’s in information technology from the University of Glasgow.
With over 80 per cent of Scottish tech businesses likely to hire graduates within the next year, it is hoped scholars will get a “long-term” career in the sector.
“The goal is to make sure throughout college or university and after they finish their course, they know the path to graduate apprenticeships or to our E placement programme - where we can help them secure placements within industry. So this is a longer play for ScotlandIS to support these scholars in STEM”, Meechan added.
Although hopeful that the programme will expand to other areas across the country, Meechan warned that as “it is the first time” the organisation had offered a scholarship, adding that they will have to "wait and see how this one works".
"We hope to continue to do scholarships. And as we're going through that process, we will take feedback from the students and industry, and then look at it and how we need to change things with the scholarship. But if this gets more young people and to our sector, then it's absolutely something we will want to continue to do."