At West Lothian College we want to help address the digital skills shortage in Scotland, so that as many people as possible can take advantage of the many opportunities available now and in the future.
It is widely reported that over 12,500 digital technologies job opportunities are created each year in Scotland.
While 40% of people in digital technologies roles work in the tech industry, 60% are employed in sectors like financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare. This shows that digital technologies are increasingly essential to all sectors of the economy. According to tech industry body, ScotlandIS, the number of people working in technology related jobs is growing at a faster rate in non-tech sectors than in the digital technologies industry itself!
We want to enable people, businesses and communities in West Lothian to have the skills to take advantage of these opportunities. Central to that ambition are students on digital and computing courses at the college. Their skills will be vital to enabling companies in every sector of the economy to benefit from developments like Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.
Our digital offer starts with stimulating interest in tech at an early age by running coding events for school pupils. We build on this by delivering computing qualifications like the Software Development Foundation Apprenticeship to senior secondary pupils.
In August we will welcome our first three cohorts of students onto our HNC Cyber Security course and next year we will offer HND Cyber Security. We are embedding data science into all our computing qualifications and aiming to offer HNC Data Science from 2020. These, and the other computing qualifications we deliver, are highly relevant to industry and for progression to degree study. Our very successful partnership with Edinburgh Napier University leads to many of our computing graduates moving straight into second or third year of related degrees at the university.
Recognising the need to invest in the skills of and right facilities for our computing students we are launching a new Cyber Lab in September. Equipped with high spec state of the art technology, this bespoke facility will enable our students to develop their skills in an environment relevant to the companies they aspire to work in.
In the computing context an interrupt is a signal to the processor alerting it to a high priority event that needs immediate attention and suspending current activities to deal with that.
So it is with our Interrupt19 festival – we are suspending normal activity for our computing students on Wednesday 11 September to allow them to benefit from a wide range of industry experts on mission critical topics like cyber security, data science and the internet of things.
We plan to hold the Interrupt festival annually and expect it to grow each year. This year our main audience is over 250 computing students, most of whom are studying at HNC level or above. Also attending will be up to 100 senior secondary school pupils and some local businesses keen to find out more about the impact of digital and data developments on them.
Interrupt19 has an action-packed agenda. Fantastic speakers like Gillian Docherty from The Data Lab, Eamonn Keane from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and Professor Bill Buchanan from Edinburgh Napier University will introduce delegates to the world of data and cyber security and inspire them to take control of their own digital future.
Interactive workshops led by leading tech contributors like Toni Scullion, winner of last year’s Scottish Women in Technology award for secondary education, and ethical hackers from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, will enable delegates to try out current and emerging technologies relevant to the world today and tomorrow.
West Lothian College is working hard to help address the digital skills gap — Interrupt19 will help inspire Scotland’s future digital creators.
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