MSP blasts Scottish Government’s record on digital skills

A Conservative MSP has attacked the Scottish Government’s record on digital skills – highlighting the fact there are now fewer computing teachers in post than when the SNP came into office.

Despite the launch of a national strategy revamp last week, Jamie Greene, the Tories’ digital economy spokesman said there are 187 fewer IT teachers than there were in 2007.

Mr Greene, a list MSP for the West Scotland Region, also drew attention to the fact there are 410 fewer Maths teachers nationally – a core skill required for building computing skills such as coding.

And he singled out the lack of girls taking STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school after a Skills Development Scotland report revealed women make up just 18% of the digital workforce.

In a recent parliamentary debate Mr Green said in 2014 girls represented 28% of Higher Physics, 20% of Higher Computers and just 7% made up Higher Technological Studies. 16% of women make up the student intake for Engineering and Technology students and just 3% of girls take up apprenticeships in the STEM subjects.

“This hasn’t happened overnight,” he said. “It’s been in gradual decline since 2007. Scotland needs to revitalise its strategy and renew its focus on core subjects such as STEM which offer a wide-range of transferable skills that make people equipped to take up the digital arts. If we continue as we are then we are letting down the young women of Scotland and will setback all progress we’ve made in tackling gender inequality in the workforce.”

“Digital participation in the workforce is already beginning to see difficulties across the board and when we consider that one fifth of Scottish schools don’t have an IT specialist teacher it’s clear a lack of an education plan is one of the core problems. The Scottish Government needs to work with the Scottish Parliament and other organisations to put together a clear action plan that both addresses the problems at all levels of education and highlights the great opportunities for women in an ever-growing digital sector.”

Mr Greene, who was elected in May this year, has previously worked for Viacom – the owners of MTV, Paramount and Nickelodeon – as Director of Business Development. After a brief spell as Head of UK Sales at a US television software company he was elected to the Scottish Parliament on May 5th 2016.

Despite the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to “refresh” the national digital strategy – first outlined in 2011 but not updated since – Mr Greene recently wrote a stinging rebuke of the government’s record for Computing Weekly, saying there was no “long-term plan” on digital.

That criticism was echoed last week at the Techaus technology conference in Glasgow where internet entrepreneur Jim Hamill said there was ‘no vision or strategy‘ nationally in place to make Scotland a ‘world-class digital nation by 2020’, one of the Scottish Government’s stated aims.

More on the importance of digital education at our EduTech conference in Glasgow on Dec 7 2016: