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Encouraging STEM skills in Scotland

Tata Consultancy Services knows the importance of showing Scottish students that they too can be “Digital Explorers”. 

Sixty-five per cent of children currently in Scotland’s pre-schools will work in careers and jobs that do not yet exist. It is with this statistic that Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, the Scottish Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, introduced the new STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland to the Scottish Parliament. While it is exciting to imagine the new opportunities that the future will bring, it is vital that academia, governments and businesses equip young people with the skills to shape that future. “To be a nation with ambition”, said Somerville, “Scotland must become a STEM nation”.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is in complete agreement with the Minister that STEM skills are crucial to an innovative and sustainable economy. The TCS “IT Futures” programme has already helped more than 200,000 young people in over 600 schools across the UK to discover the excitement of designing their own app or writing their first line of code. To demonstrate the commitment TCS is making to digital skills across the whole of the UK, TCS is bringing its Digital Explorers programme to Edinburgh, today.

The Digital Explorers event, executed in partnership with the Engineering Development Trust and supported by Developing the Young Workforce, will see the students being introduced to technologies that may well form the basis of their careers, in a fun and interactive way. It will allow them to think about technology analytically, encouraging them to look into how the gadgets and games they use every day actually work. They will be asked to consider questions such as what makes a good product, and how are good user experiences created? To break down any preconceptions of STEM as stuffy or boring, videos, social media and music will be used to demonstrate that learning these skills is in itself a fun process, and can lead to creative and exciting jobs.

“It is fantastic so many young people were involved in the TCS Digital Explorers initiative, giving them the chance to use their creativity and imagination while learning important new skills. These are exactly the types of projects that can encourage and inspire young people to take an interest in STEM subjects like science and engineering and that can help us ensure our future workforce is well-equipped and supported to make the most of the fast-paced technological changes around us.  Through our STEM strategy we want more schools and colleges to work together to bring such challenges to young people” said Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training.

The programme will also look at some of the technologies that are likely to shape the world in which these young people will grow up, to help them start thinking about subjects such as cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things and government technology or “govtech”. While policymakers and academics debate the importance of such technologies today, it’s crucial that young people are equipped to make informed choices about how they will use these technologies in the years to come.

Following on from any discussion about how technologies can be developed in order to ensure that they benefit everyone, comes the question of who will be best placed to make those decisions. The world of work is changing more quickly than ever before, and the qualities that make a good digital leader are far more diverse than the traditional notions about the kind of person who ran a business in the past. By encouraging young people to think about the skills that will make a difference in their careers, TCS aims to give its “Digital Explorers” a head start in the businesses of the future.

Fundamental to what TCS is aiming to achieve in STEM education is a greater sense that young people from any background can go further in the careers they find interesting. In the 2017 A-level results, just 7,600 students in England took computing, and less than 10 per cent of those students were female. While other countries are developing their digital and technology sectors at speed, the UK is currently looking at a shortfall of more than 40,000 STEM graduates per year. The challenge of adapting the UK’s skills base to the new global digital economy is a huge project, and the problem of the lack of STEM skills will not disappear unless it is solved everywhere in across the UK.

For TCS this commitment is backed up by real engagement action in its UK and global business. TCS UK aims to hire more than 250 graduates in 2018 alone, and to more than double the rate at which the business takes on apprentices. As one of the country’s largest digital employers, TCS acknowledges its wider responsibilities, and works with government initiatives such as the Your Life campaign to inspire and educate female students about the opportunities STEM subjects can create. And as an employer in 46 countries – more than 200,000 TCS employees received digital skills training in 2017 alone – TCS has the global insight and experience to help put the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy.

With support from policymakers, TCS believes that all students in Scotland and across the UK can become, in the words of Shirley-Anne Somerville, more “inquiring, productive and innovative” in their work by developing valuable STEM skills.

Digital Explorers is a ground-breaking initiative, in partnership with MyKindaFuture, Engineering Development Trust and supported by Developing the Young Workforce, which will offer an opportunity for 1000 students in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Peterborough to experience work in digital industries and increase their chances of succeeding in the sector. For more information about a career with TCS, please click here.

Gopalan Rajagopalan is head of Tata Consultancy Services Scotland and UK/I. @TCS_UKI