"Digital skills are fundamental to the life chances of our people and the economic success of our country."
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary Education and Skills
- 15 universities provide computer science courses
- In 2015, 19% of higher computing students were female.
- 26% of businesses are taking steps to develop their current employees' digital skills.
- 4 in 10 businesses are fully equipped with sufficient technology skills.
- Ensures its education and training systems expand its pool of digital skills and capabilities
- Tackles the current gender gap in digital skills and careers
Digital skills sit alongside literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing as the essential platforms for lifelong learning. These skills are required to study almost every subject at school and beyond, apply for jobs, get some of the best deals on goods and services and maintain friendships with people across the world. They are a core requirement for careers in almost every aspect of business life, be that sales, marketing, procurement, research, finance or HR.
"In Mid Calder Primary School, our vision is that education should prepare young people for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems of which we are not yet aware. We believe providing learners with a rich range of learning experiences in the digital and physical world helps them develop the skills, knowledge and attributes to be confident and competent in the world of learning, life and work."
Sarah Burton, Deputy Head Teacher, Mid Calder Primary School
"We know the gender imbalance starts early and the Digital Technologies and Skills Group is working with partners across Scotland to implement a joint action plan to attract females into the sector."
Evelyn Walker, Chair, Digital Technologies Skills Group Gender Work Stream, UK and Ireland Project Management Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise)
We will deliver a long-term structural plan to transform and enrich our education system. Building on our Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy  and our wider work to promote STEM (Science, Technology Engineering & Maths),  we will work with partners to capitalise on the benefits and opportunities of new technology to widen access to learning through projects like the E-Sgoil being taken forward in the Western Isles. We will focus our efforts on building digital literacy and confidence from the early years onwards, equipping our children and young people with the increasingly sophisticated and creative digital skills they need to thrive in modern society and the workplace.
Alongside this, we will
forge a partnership between the public sector, business,
universities and charities to tackle current shortages in digital
skills across all sectors. This requires us to better
match college and university provision with industry needs, work
with employers to promote lifelong learning and increase
opportunities for training and retraining, and do all we can to
make digital careers more attractive to all groups in society.
The Scottish Government will take a high-profile, leadership role in tackling the gender gap that continues to persist in terms of digital skills and digital careers. Women still account for only 18% of digital technology roles across Scotland, compared to 39% working in other skilled occupations.  The percentage of girls and women pursuing qualifications in computing science or related qualifications at National 5, Higher and in college/universities is similarly low, ranging from 17-20%.  This gender gap is unacceptable and demands a long-term commitment, starting with action in our schools to encourage and inspire girls to study STEM subjects.
We will work with stakeholders to build and promote a robust case for inclusion that centres on the benefits that a more diverse workforce will bring in terms of innovation, service improvement and commercial success. We will also support further research to assess the under-representation of other groups within the digital sector and identify the reasons for this and the best mechanisms for overcoming it.
Actions to build a digitally-skilled nation:
- Update expectations for Digital Literacy and Computing Science in the school curriculum from Spring 2017, with appropriate support for teachers
- Provide coordinated support for extra-curricular activities such as coding clubs
- Launch a new Digital Schools programme, using regional and national pathfinders to test innovative approaches and transform digital skills development in Secondary schools
- Embed appropriate technology in the class room, using this to enrich learning across all subjects
- Take opportunities to use technology to widen access to learning through projects like the E-Sgoil being taken forward in the Western Isles
- Work with Computing Science teachers in secondary schools to establish priorities and options for professional development
- Provide opportunities through the forthcoming STEM Strategy to inspire young people to pursue these subjects
- Boost teacher numbers in computing and STEM subjects by introducing innovative pathways into the profession and a new marketing campaign
- Work with the Scottish Funding Council, employers, colleges and universities to deliver courses and qualifications which are more responsive to the needs of business
- Build on our successful Modern Apprenticeships in digital technology frameworks, and support the roll out of the Foundation Apprenticeships in Software and Hardware, and Cyber Security
- Continue to roll out the new IT Management for Business and IT Software Graduate Level Apprenticeships to individuals and employers, which six universities are running from January 2017
- Build on the CodeClan model to improve the availability of high quality transition and workplace training
- Build the understanding of cyber security into every level of our broader skills agenda, starting with the promotion of basic digital skills and internet safety in schools
Actions to promote diversity in digital:
- Share best practice and effective strategies to encourage more gender balance in computing science and other STEM subjects in schools, as part of Scotland's forthcoming STEM strategy
- Work with our schools, employers and skills providers to raise awareness amongst women of the opportunities that digital knowledge and qualifications can unlock
- Build a network of Scottish employers in all sectors that will listen to the challenges facing women in developing digital careers and take positive action to promote equality
- Remove barriers to under-represented groups progressing into and within our digital professions across the public and private sectors
- Require central government bodies to gather and publish digital workforce diversity data annually
- Require unconscious bias training for all involved in recruiting, training or managing digital specialists in central government bodies
- Establish a Digital Workforce Diversity Champions network for Scotland, providing training, support and networking opportunities
- Promote digital role models from diverse backgrounds across the workplace and in our communities
- Improve retention of women working in STEM jobs (as many as 70% of women with STEM qualifications are working in non- STEM-related industries. (Source: UK Women in STEM Pay Gap 2016)
Email: Alan Rodden