Digital technology experts are pairing up with computing science teachers across the South of Scotland in a bid to help close the industry skills gap.

As part of a new initiative designed to prepare the future workforce to meet the “rapidly changing needs” of the digital technologies sector, practitioners and companies will help develop students’ interest and abilities at secondary schools in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway.

The ‘Digital Critical Friends’ programme is a partnership between tech trade body ScotlandIS, Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Borders and D&G, and 25 secondary schools across the region.

It matches teachers with industry professionals to strengthen the relationship on both sides, share current industry practices, and give the private sector the opportunity to feed into curriculum development.

Businesses across Scotland that have already signed up to the initiative include PwC, Virgin Money, Amazon, Leidos, Morgan Stanley and Adobe.

Karen Meechan, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “We know that a big reason the digital skills gap exists is because of the drop-off rates of school children and young people choosing [computing science] or having the opportunity to.

“Our aim is to help rectify this by connecting industry mentors to computer sciences teachers across the South of Scotland. This will allow us to work more closely with teachers to offer support and provide industry news, highlight where the new technologies are, and help them advocate for more or better funding for their department to encourage young people into the computing and tech subjects.”

Phil Ford, head of digital technologies and financial services for Skills Development Scotland, added: “Creating a thriving digital sector is critical to future growth in the South of Scotland. This programme provides a great opportunity for digital tech businesses to influence future skills and talent to meet future economic demand in the area.

“Our goal is to ensure the curriculum is industry relevant, that teachers are upskilled and sector savvy, and young people have an increased awareness of digital career opportunities.”

In 2020, the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, authored by former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan, concluded that computing science should be treated as a core school subject in the same way as maths and physics.

It also found that 13,000 digital tech job opportunities are created every year in Scotland and filling all of them would add £1bn to Scotland’s economy.

To get involved in Digital Critical Friends as a mentor or find out more information, contact ScotlandIS here.