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Digital skills.  These two words are becoming a regular feature of my conversations with Scotland’s businesses. Almost 13,000 new entrants are needed to fill tech roles across Scotland each year, so this is an issue that the Scottish Government takes very seriously. 

Building the skills of Scotland’s workforce is critical for our future productivity. That is why, earlier this month, the First Minster announced that the Scottish Government is to make £36 million available in loans to support digital skills training to ensure that our workforce continues to have the digital capability and skills required across all sectors of our economy. 

This builds upon the launch of the Scottish Government’s refreshed Digital Strategy; Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World by my colleague Derek Mackay last month. 

The strategy sets out the actions we will take to ensure people and businesses across Scotland have access to the tools and skills they need to harness this potential. Our key objectives for digital skills are:

  • to reduce the skills gap facing our economy, and
  • to narrow the gender gap within so many IT professions

We can’t solve these on our own; that’s why the partnerships we’ve developed in recent years are so important. CodeClan is a great example of what these partnerships can deliver – Scotland’s first industry led digital skills academy, starting out in Edinburgh but now with a presence in Glasgow’s Tontine building too. 

Meeting the immediate need for software developers is obviously important, but so is ensuring that we are developing a supply of these skills and talents through the education system and other employment pathways. One of the keys here is to get young people engaged in tech as early as possible.  Some great work has been done through the Digital World marketing campaign, and also the creation of Digital Xtra – Scotland’s first charity designed to deliver digital skills initiatives to young people across Scotland. 

Digital Xtra is a great way of showing young people the innovative and creative side to tech – inspiring them to continue with computer science, and wider STEM subjects at school and beyond.  This is another area where industry has a critical part to play – your continued support and contributions will be needed to sustain Digital Xtra and allow it to build on its success so far. 

Tackling the gender gap in many sectors across Scotland’s economy is something the Scottish Government takes very seriously, and the digital sector is no exception. 

Women occupy only 18% of those in digital roles; correcting this imbalance is crucial not only in the name of equality, but also for our economic and inclusive growth ambitions. Some of the work highlighted at the TTGGT conference is certainly a step in the right direction. The best practice guide for tech employers, and the introduction of a mentoring framework, are two innovative projects that I hope many will reap benefits both in terms of career progression and business growth. More information on the employer guides can be found here and on the mentoring framework here 

Later this week, I’ll be delivering the keynote address at the Digital Skills in Scotland; Inspiring Initiatives conference being run by Skills Development Scotland as part of Digital Skills week. 

I urge those who haven’t already signed up to attend the conference to do so and explore how we can work together in partnership to tackle this challenge that is critical to both our future workforce reaching their full potential and Scotland’s economic growth. For those of you who are interested in attending the event, more information can be found here



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