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Bridging the Digital Divide

Brian Hughes

By Brian Hughes, Vice Principal Curriculum and External Relations 

Despite the importance of technology in the modern workplace, it was reported this week that the UK is heading towards a digital skills gap ‘disaster’. 

The research showed that, while young people were able to recognise how important digital skills were for future employment, there had been a wholesale decrease in participation and training at school, further education, or apprenticeship levels. 

The number of students taking IT subjects has dropped 40% since 2015, while 70% of young people expect employers to teach them digital skills ‘on the job’. In addition, the report mentioned there was a lack of understanding and guidance about potential career paths. 

With uptake at schools decreasing, and only 50% of employers surveyed able to provide adequate digital training on the job, it’s clear to see how this skills gap has emerged. 

As outlined in the recent report, at the school level sometimes career pathways in tech are not adequately understood or reinforced. 

To combat this, Glasgow Clyde College has worked with SmartSTEMs to host events showcasing a range of subject-specific workshops to school pupils across the primary and secondary levels. These events connect college staff and students, schools and businesses to deliver informative sessions linking STEM activities directly with careers. 

For our students, we’ve always taken a digital-first approach to teaching and the curriculum. 

Through the computing department, we offer a wide range of courses and pathways beyond the ‘standard’ IT modules. We cater for students looking for alternative tech careers from cyber security and software development through to game design, eSports and streaming. 

We’re well aware that digital competency is essential for the modern workplace, and a highly transferable skillset, so we endeavour to include a tech aspect into each of the courses we teach. 

Whether it’s a digital animation module in our Fine Art course, database proficiency in Event Management, social media management as part of Hairdressing or computer-aided models for our Construction Management students - digital skills are a huge part of the curriculum. 

Additionally, over the past year, lockdown has imposed working from home on us all. Regardless of our technical ability or connectivity, everyone needed to be online to engage with friends, family, colleagues, peers and employers. 

For those out of work, we introduced a number of part-time courses focusing on the skills needed to find a job in an increasingly digital landscape. For example, ‘Preparing for Work’ is a four-week, part time online course which helps those un- or under-employed look for employment opportunities. 

To alleviate digital poverty, my colleagues across the college have helped to distribute thousands of laptops and internet dongles to the students who need them most.  

It’s clear there is strong industry demand for those with digital skills, but for many of today’s students there has been a decrease in participation in tech-based subjects. A skills gap exists and it is the role of the education sector to bridge this gap to support the new economy.