Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI – The Data Lab – announced on Tuesday that the 1,000th student has graduated through its academy.

The free to join Data Lab Academy, which supports masters students at 12 universities across Scotland, achieved the milestone after launching in 2015 with its series of workshops.

It aims to equip aspiring data and AI professionals with the tools they need to develop successful careers in the industry.

As well as networking events and masterclasses, the programme takes students on a residential innovation challenge and graduates have the option to apply for an exclusive range of paid industry placements.

In an industry where, according to techUK, the workforce is just 24% female, the Academy bucks the trend with 44% of 2023/24 student cohort being women.

Each year the Academy also offers 75 scholarships to eligible applicants through the Scottish Funding Council. The funding covers the total MSc fees as well as automatic enrolment in that year’s Academy intake.

The announcement comes as The Data Lab launches Data Talent 2024. In its 5th year, Data Talent is Scotland’s largest AI and data recruitment event. Aimed at matchmaking job seekers with potential employers, it is expected to attract more than 350 job seekers as well as several prospective employers from public, private and third sectors, including Lloyds Banking Group and the Scottish Government.

Marian Dunbar, The Data Lab Academy Manager, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have passed the 1000th graduate milestone and it feels like a tangible reward for almost a decade’s worth of hard work. The fact that we have also made great strides in closing the gender gap that is unfortunately so prevalent across the industry is also very encouraging.

“A lot has been said about the skills shortage in the Scottish tech sector, and it’s certainly true that a lot of external factors have had an impact. However, it’s important that businesses and organisations like us shoulder some of the responsibility for helping to bridge the current gap. That means providing practical support, guidance and connections for young professionals making their way in the industry.

“Over the years, it has been fantastic to see our graduates develop and their stories expand. From public health and engineering to R&D and finance we now have Academy alumni working in roles right across the sector. What’s really gratifying is that many of them have stayed in touch with the Academy and are still engaged to this day, years after they graduated.”