A new digital Charter is hoping to reverse a potentially critical decline in the uptake of computing science in Scotland.
The new Digital Technology Education Charter aims to bring together industry and academia to work together to see what more can be done to inspire the next generation into computing and raise awareness of the diverse career opportunities available to young people in the Scottish tech sector.
The Charter has so far attracted more than 60 organisations such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and the University of Glasgow to try and get more young people interested in learning digital skills.
Toni Scullion, who is the inspiration for the Charter, said she sees first-hand how the subject is disappearing off of school curriculums: “There is on average 13,000 new digital jobs created in Scotland every year but through apprenticeships and graduates we are only training around 5,000 to fill them,” she said.
“Inspiring pupils at a young age is crucial to filling this skills gap. Not all schools even teach computing science anymore. For a sector that is increasingly touching every aspect of everyday life, this is completely mad.
“This has been a pattern for at least the last decade and we need to take action now or the subject, along with the vast employment opportunities that it provides a grounding in, will be lost for a generation.”
While employment opportunities are going up in this subject area both the number of teachers and the number of pupils studying the subject is dropping.
In 2008 there were 766 computing science teachers teaching 25,000 pupils. However, by the end of last year this had fallen to 595 teachers teaching less than 10,000 pupils, with fewer than 2,000 of these females.
Research by technology sector body ScotlandIS suggests that 75% of employers are already experiencing difficulties in recruiting qualified digital staff.
Eve Wallace, Executive Director Technology, Morgan Stanley said: “There is an outdated perception, and a general lack of awareness, of the opportunities on offer within technology which inhibit talented people from exploring and ultimately building successful careers in the industry.
“Through this Charter, Morgan Stanley is excited to be a part of an initiative that promotes a partnership between industry and education, helping to tap into and develop the exceptional young talent we have in Scotland and hopefully raise awareness to current and future generations the opportunities that are available to them in the digital sector.”
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Dr Matt Barr, computing science lecturer at the University of Glasgow, added: “It is critical that pupils develop an interest in computing science from a young age if they are to go on and study it further and ultimately take advantage of the varied job opportunities that are available in the tech sector.
“Getting the message across about the range and variety of career options computing science opens the door to is not being done effectively at the moment, with the next generation potentially missing out on well paid fulfilling careers.
“Hopefully working together with industry through the Charter we can help reverse this.”
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