BT's digital skills programme, Skills for Tomorrow, provides free courses and training in digital skills to thousands of people across the UK. In particular, it has helped older and more vulnerable people stay healthy and in contact with friends and family, supported small businesses transition to doing business online, helped families and children learn from home, and supported people working from home or remotely for the first time.
Cisco has a national programme aimed at digital education and skills, the Cisco Networking Academy. The programme, which delivers free courses both on campuses and online, is designed to provide students at all education levels with knowledge, hands-on experience, and prepare them for both industry-recognised certifications and jobs in cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other computing related areas. In the North East, the programme has 11 networking academies, including five colleges, three universities, and one school.
The Scottish Government recently released two independent reviews, one of the Scottish tech sector - the Logan Review - and one of the wider Scottish economy and the impact of COVID-19 - the Higgins Review.
The Logan Review focuses on the entire Scottish tech ecosystem, examining the current state of the sector and what policy interventions should be taken to accelerate the ecosystem past the “tipping point” when network effects and a virtuous circle come into play. The report stressed the importance of three fundamental support areas the tech sector depends on: education and talent, infrastructure, and funding. It also made 34 policy recommendations to provide the tech sector with enough support to get it past the “tipping point”.
The Higgins Review focused on the entire Scottish economy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent ongoing economic recovery efforts. It identified digital innovation as a key growth area among others for the economic recovery. The report specifically identified digital skills, connectivity, and tech in general as key to adapting to new ways of working in the post-COVID-19 world but does not provide tech specific recommendations. It does list several other sectors of the economy with digital skills gaps, including agriculture, hospitality, and retail, and also recommends support for those lacking digital connectivity and the necessary devices and skills to utilise technology.
Two of the key areas highlighted by the Logan Review – tech skills and connectivity infrastructure, are the same aspects of local digital capital that participants frequently brought up – reinforcing their importance and how much focus should be put on improving those in Scotland.
The Higgins Review additionally further demonstrated that the tech sector will have a key role to play in Scotland’s economic recovery, again highlighting the importance of digital skills and digital connectivity infrastructure.
The Scottish Government has also announced an over £20 million funding package to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopt digital technology in order to improve productivity, increase resilience, and create new market opportunities.
Of the £23.6 million announced £11.8 million will go to help businesses adopt digital technology and boost their digital capability, while a further £10 million will be provided to bolster financial incentives and provide expert advice to support SMEs to invest in digital solutions.
A further £800,000 will be given to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to help its Digital Enablement Grant to reach more SMEs, while the Data Lab will receive £1 million to help businesses invest in advanced technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence.
In response to the economic crisis, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has released a blueprint to kickstart the region’s economy, making a case to government for the key actions needed to stimulate the region’s economy in the short-term and create a long-term, sustainable, green, and inclusive recovery.
Read techUK's eight reports from the Building the Future We Need campaign which explore 'Strengthening Local Digital Capital' across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East, North West, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside regions of England.
Read the accompanying press releases for techUK's reports into 'Strengthening Local Digital Capital' across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East, North West, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside regions of England.