From BASIC to software genius - in four months

14th August 2015 at 01:00
16-week course aims to close Scotland's digital skills gap

Scotland's digital industries face a skills shortage of thousands of entrants, but the country's first academy for software skills is now hoping to tackle the shortfall - by training fresh digital talent in just 16 weeks.

CodeClan, which is backed by the Scottish government and by business, will open its doors next month for the first intake of around 20 students.

CodeClan head of curriculum Michael Pavling told TESS that by the time students graduated four months later they would be ready for entry-level coding jobs in the web and mobile industries.

"This is four months of using recent business techniques and current industry practice," he said, adding that CodeClan was also working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to offer students professional development awards in software development.

His colleague Rebecca Heaney said: "Digital is part of everyday life and CodeClan will fast-track access into shaping that world. A CodeClan qualification will create countless career paths and give students skills they can take anywhere."

Mr Pavling said: "There is a skills gap in the Scottish market of around 5,000 new entrants in technology-based industries".

He added that the academy was one of a number of different approaches being used to close that gap.

Open to all

Mr Pavling said the academy was "taking applications constantly" for the courses, which will start at 10-week intervals. "There is no particular age group," he said, adding that the course was open to anyone who was struggling to find work, from school-leavers to graduates.

Students did not require previous coding experience but needed to be committed, Mr Pavling said: they would be "working incredibly hard", taking lessons five days a week as well as completing homework at night and over the weekends.

Successful applicants are required to complete a three-week pre-course to prepare for the programme, which the academy aims to deliver with a student-teacher ratio of about 5:1.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has provided the initial grant funding for the CodeClan academy, but students will each pay course fees of pound;4,500.

SDS chair John McClelland said the skills academy would offer many people the opportunity to be a part of an industry with great prospects. "As well as helping people to forge an exciting career, it is also a key development for industry, which needs cutting-edge software skills if it is to thrive in this competitive marketplace," he said.

The launch of CodeClan comes as Scottish Conservatives claimed that figures revealed "unprecedented" cuts to IT courses in Scottish further education. Official statistics show that the overall number of IT courses fell from 45,900 in 2009-10 to 21,800 in 2014.

The party's education spokeswoman, Mary Scanlon, said that these cuts were "quite incredible" given the skills shortage in IT. "We should be calling out for more people with these skills, not cutting courses," she added.

Polly Purvis, chief executive of the digital industry body ScotlandIS, said: "It is a phenomenally exciting time to be working in the digital technologies in Scotland, with companies such as Skyscanner and Fanduel taking the world by storm. CodeClan is a `way in' for people who want to be part of that story."

Deputy first minister John Swinney welcomed the launch of CodeClan and said that it would "provide new opportunities for people from many walks of life to meet pressing skills shortages in this growing and vibrant digital sector".

He added: "The Scottish government is very pleased to support this initiative as part of our commitment to make Scotland a world-class digital economy by 2020."

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