Digital Economy Skills Action Plan (DESAP) Launched
A new report published by Skills Development Scotland highlights the importance of digital skills to improve productivity and growth in Scotland.
The Digital Economy Skills Action Plan (DESAP) shows that digital skills are no longer the preserve of just the technology sector, and that digital talent is now essential for all of the country’s key industries.
Launched during Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2023, DESAP also states how important work-based learning is for training new workers, and upskilling and reskilling existing employees, to help build the nation’s digital capability.
Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, said: “Increasing the pool of our digitally skilled workforce will be critical if we are to meet the economic ambitions we set in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET).
“The Scottish Government remains committed both to the transition to net zero and supporting the growth of the digital economy. Indeed since 2021 we have delivered more than £2.4 million of funding for digital upskilling and re-skilling.
“I am grateful to SDS and partners for their work to develop these recommendations which we shall consider carefully and collectively as we take forward the delivery of NSET.”
Increasing integration of digital technology into the everyday life of a small business owner and sole trader is important in tackling skills gaps in the workforce. We know embracing digital technology can help businesses in every sector across Scotland be more productive
Deputy Head of Policy, Federation of Small Businesses
Phil Ford, Head of Digital Economy and Financial Services, commented: “DESAP builds on strong partnership work across Scottish Government and public agencies. It also reinforces the need for a step change in the supply of digitally skilled employees and employers to meet the needs of the Scottish economy.
“Work-based learning, which includes everything from apprenticeships and degree micro-credentials through to mentoring schemes and tech boot camps, offers the most cost-efficient way to supply those essential skills that are now very much in demand.”Ford added: “Technology is also an essential catalyst for change, and a vibrant digital economy will not only deliver productivity gains but will also ensure that we deliver the innovation necessary to hit our net zero targets by 2045.”
Key recommendations in the DESAP report include:
- establish a new equality, diversity & inclusion advisory group to provide expert advice to break down barriers and improve access to training and jobs for those in rural areas and also “protected characteristic” groups which helps widen the talent pool
- the creation of a new toolkit which will allow employers to assess digital skills in the workplace, and then source the right training to enhance their digital capability
- increasing the number of further education students that get access to technology-led work placements, and also increasing the number of tech experts that visit schools
- introducing digital skills such as data management and cyber security into non-technology education and apprenticeships such as agriculture, construction, hospitality, and early learning and childcare
- blending entrepreneurship and enterprise skills into technology apprenticeships to encourage more start-ups
- implementing a new fast-track digital skills training model to help employers find people with the right skills more quickly
Ford concluded: “Everything recommended in this plan is designed to maximise the future skills pipeline, but improving equality and diversity - including geographical inclusion - is arguably the most important one on the list. If employers can tap into an increasingly diverse talent pool of people who are taking up digital roles this will help to alleviate skills shortages”
Rachel Cook, Deputy Head of Policy at the Federation of Small Businesses backs SDS’ recommendations. She commented: “Increasing integration of digital technology into the everyday life of a small business owner and sole trader is important in tackling skills gaps in the workforce.
“We know embracing digital technology can help businesses in every sector across Scotland be more productive.”
National law firm Harper Macleod is just one non tech company in Scotland that sees the benefits of employing digital technology apprentices to help grow their business.
Martin Darroch, the company's chief executive, said: “Modern Apprentices play a significant role in our business. We’re extremely proud of the culture we’ve created which allows our Modern Apprentice colleagues to develop their digital skills in a fast-paced and high standards environment. The digitisation of the legal sector is something we’re embracing to protect and grow our business and support our clients.”