Proud to be an interrupter!

Wednesday 11 September 2019. Remember that date. It marked the beginning of something big in digital in West Lothian.

Over 370 people attended West Lothian College’s inaugural digital festival, Interrupt19. It was the first large-scale digital conference of its kind in Scotland – aimed specifically at college computing students and school pupils who had access to some of the leading digital experts in Scotland just three weeks into their courses!

The other unique aspect of Interrupt19 is that was a festival for students run by students with our HNC Events students responsible for ensuring the event ran smoothly, and our Media and Communications students capturing the speeches and other activities on digital and social media.

Why Interrupt19?

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 was with Interrupt19. We suspended normal activity for our computing students on 11 September to allow them to engage with a wide range of industry experts on mission critical topics like cyber security, data science and the internet of things.

We will hold the Interrupt digital festival each year and expect it to grow exponentially. This year our main audience was our computing students, most of whom are studying at HNC level or above. Also attending were senior pupils from local secondary schools and local stakeholders keen to find out more about the impact of digital and data developments on them.

Interrupt19 had an action-packed agenda. Keynote speakers Gillian Docherty, Chief Executive of The Data Lab, Eamonn Keane, Head of Cyber Security at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, Professor Bill Buchanan from Edinburgh Napier University, Toni Scullion, winner of last year’s Scottish Women in Technology award for secondary education, and Ronnie Corse, Head of Technology at Sky introduced delegates to the world of data and cyber security, and inspired them to take control of their own digital future.

Interactive workshops led by The Turing’s Testers from St Kentigern’s Academy, ethical hackers from Curious Frank, Sky Careers, companies like EyeAcademy and Adarma, Edinburgh Napier University, and Kenji Lamb enabled delegates to find out about emerging technologies relevant to the world today and tomorrow.

Why digital matters and what we’re doing

At West Lothian College we are helping to address the digital skills shortage in Scotland so that as many people as possible can take advantage of the opportunities available now and in the future.

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.

Recognising the need to invest in the skills of and right facilities for our computing students, this year we launched an extended range of digital courses and a new Cyber Lab. Equipped with high spec state of the art technology this bespoke facility enables our students to develop their skills in an environment relevant to the companies they aspire to work in.

In August 2019, sixty students started our new HNC Cyber Security course. Next year we will offer HND Cyber Security and introduce HNC Data Science. Our successful partnerships with universities like Edinburgh Napier have resulted in many of our computing graduates moving straight into second or third year of relevant degrees. And some of our HND students have secured jobs with companies like Sky who are now sponsoring them through graduate apprenticeships at universities like Heriot-Watt.

Meet our interrupters

West Lothian College has an excellent team delivering our computing courses. They were instrumental in designing Interrupt19 and establishing our Cyber Lab.

Our other interrupters were those on the project team who led on the planning of the event over the past few months – David Torsney, Louise Byrne, Elaine Campbell and Greg Clark.

A big thanks to our sponsors who helped make Interrupt19 such a professional event – Adobe, DYW West Lothian and Entrotec. Our headline sponsor, Adobe, came about as a result of one of our former students, Den Jones, who is now Director of Enterprise Security at Adobe in California.

Den Jones

Daring to be digital and proud to be interrupters!

The theme of this year’s Interrupt festival was ‘daring to be digital’ and that was our call to action to students and school pupils across West Lothian.

Dare to learn, use and harness the power of digital.

But also, care. Care about what you create and strive to do good with digital. Care about the potential dangers and protect yourself and others against cyber threats.

What’s next?

Interrupt19 is just the start. The college will be hosting a range of digital events over the next year to provide further opportunities for our students, staff and stakeholders.

Ada Lovelace Day, 8 October 2019

We will arrange a guest lecture on Ada Lovelace Day to raise awareness of women in tech.

Cyber Scotland Week, 17-23 February 2020

We will arrange an event for students and employers during Cyber Scotland Week. Cyber Scotland Week draws together events across Scotland to showcase innovation, raise awareness of good cyber resilience practice and promote a career within the industry.

DataFest, 9-20 March 2020

We will register to run a fringe event for students and local businesses during DataFest20. DataFest showcases Scotland’s leading role in data science and artificial intelligence on the international stage, and offers a networking platform to interact with local and international talent, industry, academia and data enthusiasts. The DataFest20 Fringe programme supports collaboration through events across Scotland exploring, hacking and debating data innovation.

Interrupt20, 16 September 2020

So, Wednesday 11 September 2019. Remember that date. It marked the beginning of something big in digital in West Lothian.

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