A student less than a third of his way through a 16-week coding course has hit out at the “shocking” sudden closure of Scotland’s national digital skills academy.

Stuart Ure said he and fellow students at Edinburgh-based CodeClan have been left “furious” by a management decision on Friday to cease trading with immediate effect.

The 34-year-old, who put all his savings into paying for a professional software development course, said there was no prior warning that the business was facing closure.

He said: “We just had a Slack message that came through on Friday, it was completely out of the blue. It basically said that CodeClan was going into liquidation and had ceased trading. All the staff and instructors had only found out about it themselves half an hour before.

“It’s just shocking how anyone can be treated like that, to have no prior warning whatsoever, especially when people were right in the middle of their courses, and some had just put down deposits. And as for the money, I don’t think we’ll see any of that again.”

Stuart, who has worked in student association roles and as a business adviser at the Ministry of Justice in New Zealand, decided to embark on a career in tech after doing a “range of jobs” without a set career plan. He was hoping learning to code would open doors into a potentially rewarding industry, professionally and financially.

“I know I wouldn’t just get fully qualified and jump into a great job, but this was going to give me something to aim for, some structure, and to get onto the industry ladder. I was fully invested in it and was working really, really hard.”

He added: “I’m just furious, it’s complete shock. On Thursday night my cohort and instructors were all together and we had a talk on with industry leaders, so everything seemed fine. And then the next day it was shut.”

Ure has now launched a crowdfunder on Just Giving and says he has been overwhelmed by messages of support, on the platform and on LinkedIn, with offers including accommodation to continue to train. He said his goal is to reach £50,000 through the crowdfunder to cover the costs of the tuition to allow students now stuck in limbo to at least finish their studies. Within 48 hours of launching the crowdfund, over £14,000 – 28 per cent of the target – has been reached.

He said there has been no official communication, however, from either CodeClan or the Scottish Government, which provided seed funding for the organisation when it was established in 2015.

A meeting was due to be held today between some of the students and staff to see what can be done to help people in the aftermath of the liquidation.

He said: “The response has been phenomenal. Like I said, if we can get some of the instructors’ costs covered that might be a way forward, because they hold all the course materials. And they’ve lost their jobs as well.”

CodeClan has posted the following statement on its website: “It is with extremely heavy hearts that we announce that CodeClan has gone into liquidation and will cease all operations as of 4 August 2023. 

“Sadly, that means all our staff have been made redundant and will no longer represent CodeClan. 

“Craig Morrison and Scott Milne of Quantuma Advisory Limited were appointed Joint Provisional Liquidators of the CodeClan Limited on 4 August 2023. CodeClan has ceased to trade with immediate effect. Creditors will be contacted in due course.”

In an official statement, the liquidators blamed “challenging market conditions” for the closure.

They said: “Established in 2015 with Scottish Government seed funding, CodeClan focused on bridging the critical digital skills gap in Scotland and supporting a new generation of digital talent. Launched with a core curriculum to retrain people from all backgrounds and professions, the company taught students the fundamentals of software programming. The business provided training from sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow and in 2018 it expanded to Inverness.

“The company was significantly impacted by Covid as, in addition to providing training to individuals, it derived significant income from placing people into employment. In 2021 the Inverness office was closed and the business looked to have returned to some stability.

“Unfortunately, current market conditions have hit the turnover with the business placement side of the business once again suffering. Attempts to replace this income have failed and ultimately, a lack of cash flow has resulted in the company being placed in liquidation and immediately ceasing to trade. All 57 employees have now been made redundant.”

Quantuma managing director and Joint Provisional Liquidator Craig Morrison said:  “It is deeply regrettable that CodeClan has been forced to cease trading, due to challenging market conditions. A combination of unsettled trading conditions, particularly impacting the business placements side of the business, has seen Codeclan unable to continue.

As Joint Provisional Liquidators, our immediate priorities have been to provide appropriate support to those whose jobs have been affected. The Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) has been engaged to work with employees.”

CodeClan’s chief product officer Ceri Shaw revealed on LinkedIn that the organisation had been lobbying for Scottish Government financial support since the beginning of the year.

The executive team made the approach after revenues from bespoke training that funded the organisation’s public courses “fell off a cliff this year”.

She said the decision to close had been made despite the team ‘fighting so hard’ to keep going, and that she had been left “devastated” by the move.

She said: “I wanted to quickly address a few of the comments I’ve seen along the lines of “surely the Scottish Government would have stepped in”.

“The CodeClan executive team was in touch with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise about financial support for CodeClan since the beginning of the year and many occasions since. For whatever reason, they were unable or unwilling to offer financial support when it came down to it, despite positive indications up to that point.”

CodeClan recently announced several new schemes, including a tie-up with New York-based digital skills academy Flat Iron, a partnership with Young Women’s Movement to close the gender gap in tech and a summer bootcamp for unemployed young people in Glasgow. The Flat Iron school partnership was designed to significantly expand CodeClan’s reach.

According to figures released at the end of June, CodeClan estimated that by making its curriculum available on demand, it will be able to re-skill ‘triple the number of students learning part-time compared to on-campus by 2024/25, tripling the number again in 2025/26. That would equate to getting 3,000 students a year re-skilled by the end of 2026, against the current level of around 300’.  

A CodeClan web page – now cached – indicates that the job placement percentage for 1,320 job-seeking graduates who finished the professional software development course between 2015 and June 2022 was 84 per cent. Sources for this data included ‘CodeClan’s placement records, information given directly from graduates, and LinkedIn, starting on a software graduate average salary of £29,739. In total, the figures indicated that 3,482 people completed CodeClan courses between 2015 and June 2022, including short courses, bespoke courses and 1,498 immersive career changers.

CodeClan, a not-for-profit organisation, worked with more than 300 industry partners, including ‘hiring partners’ such as Skyscanner, FanDuel, Baillie Gifford, BlackRock, Tesco Bank and Sainsbury’s Bank. It was established with the help of ScotlandIS – the tech trade body – in 2015, with then chief executive Polly Purvis OBE serving as a key part of the project team to get it off the ground, and then as its first chair.

Karen Meechan, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “The team and the Board at ScotlandIS are deeply saddened by the news that CodeClan has ceased operations. CodeClan provided a vital service to Scotland’s tech community, supporting many individuals to embark upon a new career through their exceptional digital training programs and providing a gateway to a rapidly growing industry.

“Our thoughts are with all the staff and students during this challenging time. ScotlandIS is proud of its long history with CodeClan and we will make every effort to support those affected. Today marks a sad day in Scotland’s digital tech sector.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Codeclan has for many years played a valuable role in Scotland’s tech scene, and this development is deeply regrettable.

“The Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise worked intensively with CodeClan, including employing independent financial consultants, to explore every possible option to help the organisation secure a sustainable future. 

“Through the PACE programme, Skills Development Scotland is already making arrangements to support staff during this extremely difficult time. We are also working closely with the liquidator and other interested parties to develop solutions for impacted students.”