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Digital Skills Partnership’s Fresh Approach Delivers Tech Talent

Dominique Adams


DSP group winners-min

An innovative pilot programme aimed at addressing the digital skills gap in Scotland has been completed. 

The Digital Skills Partnership Programme has taken a unique approach to help prepare students for the world of work.

The pilot, aimed at delivering more work-ready tech talent, and encouraging greater collaboration between industry and academia, was developed by the Digital Skills Partnership – a ScotlandIS initiative supported by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council.

Through the programme, student participants gain practical experience of real-world challenges in the software development process by bringing together learners with different levels of experience and expertise in small teams to respond to an industry-style brief with very specific deliverables.

The programme also helps prepare students for studying in a university environment so as to ease their transition from college to further education.

The successfully delivered pilot saw five teams of five students from around Scotland compete against each other for the opportunity to gain experience and win a team prize of £1,000, donated by Craneware.

Participating institutes included:

  • Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College
  • Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh College (two teams)
  • University of Stirling and Forth Valley College and
  • University of the West of Scotland and City of Glasgow College.

Recommended: ScotlandIS Survey: Scottish Tech Sector in Growth Mode

At the end of January, each team was provided with a brief and was paired with an academic lead and an industry mentor from either CAS or CGI UK. Maxime Greffe, Bartosz Kubera and Charles Spence from Edinburgh College and Rory Dobson from Heriot-Watt University were named the overall winners after the final presentations were delivered.

Lesley Broadwood, project development manager at ScotlandIS, said: “It’s been great to see how well the pilot has gone for everyone involved. This ground breaking initiative is aimed specifically at making sure our tech graduates are as well-equipped as possible to hit the ground running when they join the workforce, and this mixed experience level project will help prepare them in a more realistic way for the software development process in industry. The success from this pilot will help us to roll the programme out at the start of the next academic year.”

Joanna Campbell, chair of the Digital Skills Partnership and vice principal of Student Experience at the City of Glasgow College, said: “It was fantastic to see the level of interest and engagement we had from students during this programme. The students who got involved were most keen to improve teamworking skills and viewed the Digital Skills Partnership programme as an opportunity to gain industry knowledge, broaden their hands-on experience and enjoy new networking opportunities.

“It also provided college students with a warm introduction to the university environment, hopefully making the transition from college to university less daunting and therefore enhancing their career path. A great example of work to widen access and improve the life chances of our future workforce.

“The true benefit of the programme is that it offers students an insight that goes beyond what can be taught in a classroom, through responding to a live brief with a multi-skilled team and access to real-world tools. This helps contextualise the learning and illustrate how their tertiary education will translate into the workplace.”

Throughout the whole process, industry leaders were involved in the development and implementation of the Digital Skills Partnership project. They played a key role in informing the type of brief the students received and sharing feedback on the skills that are vital to talent joining the Scotland’s tech workforce.

Adam Dallis, software team lead at Craneware, said: “We’re delighted to support this innovative project. As a major employer of software specialists we know how important it is to help young developers to build their team skills and understand the real world application of all the theory they learn about in college and at university.”

Chris Ellis, CTO at CAS, said: “The Scottish tech sector is always in need of fresh new talent and it is imperative that students are skilled not only technically but have the ability to interpret a brief and work as a team with varying backgrounds to deliver a strong response. The Digital Skills Partnership initiative bridges the gap between hard, technical skills and soft skills like problem-solving, communication and collaboration that are all equally important when putting technical knowledge into real-world practice.

“All the teams delivered impressive responses to the brief. It was difficult to determine an outright winner. However, what was delivered by students from Edinburgh College and Heriot-Watt University raised the bar higher than the others so they were the deserving winners of the initial pilot. That said – I’d say everyone involved has much to be proud of. It will be great to see this scheme rolled out further and see the results of more rounded work-ready recruits filtering through to the benefit of this dynamic and exciting industry in Scotland.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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