“Qualifications are great, but we’re equally interested in the teen who’s built a server in their garage.” Laura Casci, Head of Delivery (Scotland), BJSS
This was just one of the gold nuggets from a recent insight session I attended on the digital and ICT sector. Organised by Skills Development Scotland, it included a presentation from major tech employer BJSS, which lifted the lid on common misconceptions about digital careers.
Here’s the deal. Tech is one of the fastest growing sectors in Scotland; the country needs around 13,000 new people each year. But demand far outstrips supply with only 5,200 graduating in Computer Science annually and – perhaps more worryingly - a lukewarm uptake of the subject in secondary schools.
What can be done to address the shortfall? Collaboration is key. Here are some actions that tech companies, schools and parents can all get behind:
Many tech organisations are aware of the issue and want to be part of the solution. Signing up to the Digital Technology Education Charter allows them to cement their commitment to inspiring the next generation. Financial support to encourage relevant activities can be applied for via the Digital Xtra Fund. Tech companies can also use Marketplace – an employer/schools portal – to upload any events or activities they can offer for pupils.
Educators can take up offers from employers to bring the subject of Computer Science to life in the classroom. Doing so will also raise awareness of the diversity and range of opportunities on offer. Importantly, they can reinforce the message that the right skills matter as much as the right qualifications. Self-awareness, communication, networking, attitude and a love of tech all feature on the BJSS candidate checklist.
Many of our children will work in jobs that don’t yet exist. Mind boggling. It’s hard to talk up a career path that’s unclear, however parents can instead talk confidently about the volume of tech opportunities that exist and the skills that employers are looking for. Prospects are positive too, with apprentices earning up to £18K, rising to £28-£40K for graduates and £50-85K for experienced hires.
Banish the idea that jobs in tech are sedentary roles involving huge amounts of screen time and extensive knowledge of codes, languages and scripts. Opportunities exist across business management, sales and marketing, product design, development, client liaison and engineering. Coding, languages and scripts may be part and parcel of the tech sector, however its raison d’être is to solve problems and enhance lives. Like smart watches that alert a loved one if you fall and the check-in apps that have allowed COVID-hit cafés to reopen. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Clare Scott is an Employer School Coordinator with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) North East, the vital link connecting schools and businesses. Contact her on email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @ClareDYWNE.