Yesterday, West Lothian College hosted Interrupt19, a digital conference aimed at encouraging school pupils and computing students to consider careers in tech. The event provided students a chance to have access to some of Scotland’s top digital thinkers and to attend interactive tech workshops.
This year, 250 computing students and up to 100 senior secondary school pupils attended. The college plans to make the Interrupt festival an annual event and hopes to see it grow and to reach more young people.
Principal and Chief Executive at West Lothian College, Jackie Galbraith, said to DIGIT: “We would like to see this as the beginning of a digital revolution in West Lothian to make sure that young people and older people in West Lothian have got the chance to engage with all the jobs and opportunities in the digital and data arena and we look forward to working with our partners to make that a reality.”
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Keynote speakers included Gillian Docherty, Chief Executive of The Data Lab, Eamonn Keane, Head of Cyber Security at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, and Professor Bill Buchanan from Edinburgh Napier University, Ronnie Corse, Head of Sky Business Technology and Toni Scullion an award-winning computer science teacher and founder of non-profit charity dressCode.
The number of tech jobs available is on the rise, it is estimated that there are over 12,500 tech job opportunities created each year in Scotland, but only around 5,000 – 6,000 people with the relevant tech skills entering the space.
According to SQA, its figures showed a marked decrease in the number of computing science higher entries across Scotland in 2019. If the situation is not remedied Scotland’s economic future could be in jeopardy, as business becomes increasingly digital.
The only way to address this is to not only inspire the next generation to go into tech but to also provide them with the opportunities and skills they will need to succeed in the industry.
“It is really important that we take the time to talk with our young people from colleges and schools to help inspire, enthuse and motivate them about the amazing opportunities to use their unique talent and their skills. They are our future and we must invest in them to ensure we make the most of technological advances and help our companies and organisations innovate, disrupt and grow,” Docherty told DIGIT.
Speaking to DIGIT, Scullion said: “It is absolutely awesome to see West Lothian College leading the way by creating an outstanding and unique event like this to address the declining number of pupils taking computer science.
“What made this event so special is that was made by college pupils for pupils. It brought together industry and academia to strive to make change. This is absolutely what Scotland needs and what computing science needs.
“West Lothian College has set the bar and it would be amazing to see this being replicated across the country. I believe if all Scottish pupils could have been here to hear the inspiring talks and about the amazing opportunities in tech, we would see a spike in the uptake of computer science as a subject. It’s wonderful to see industry, universities and college come together to take steps to encourage the next generation of Scottish tech talent.”