Cubs Coding Challenge at Converged Highlights UK Digital Skills Gap
With the United Kingdom experiencing a digital skills gap that is costing the economy £63billion annually, a Scottish IT company has been inspiring a group of local youngsters to consider a career in the industry.
On Tuesday 3 July, Aberdeen-based Converged Communication Solutions welcomed a local pack of Cub Scouts to its offices to help them achieve their latest badge. The independent firm invited 13 youngsters from 1st Kintore Cubs to complete a programming challenge that enabled the pack to gain their digital maker badge.
In 2016, The Scout Association introduced the badge to reflect the changing skillset that today’s young people require in life. With digital technology playing an increasingly large part in day-to-day activities, especially as more services are driven online, the need to equip children with relevant skills is crucial. Particularly when digital and IT sectors face significant future skills gaps and 40% of today’s UK workforce admit that they lack the digital skills needed for most jobs.
UK losing out on £63billion
These comments reinforce a 2012 report which identified that the UK gross domestic product was losing out on an additional £63billion a year due to a shortage of suitably skilled personnel and organisations not fully embracing technology. Last year, in a survey of 1,400 UK businesses the British Chambers of Commerce found that 84% said digital and IT skills were more important to them than two years earlier, while 75% of firms surveyed acknowledged that they faced a digital skills shortage.
In Scotland, the economy supports an estimated 92,000 technology professionals, of which around 36,000 work in dedicated technology businesses, with the remainder being employed by companies operating in other industries. It is estimated that 11,000 new entrants into the technology sector are required in Scotland each year, which is around a fifth of the country’s current birth rate.
Such figures demonstrate the current scale of the digital skills crisis facing businesses in Scotland and throughout the UK. It is the reason why Converged, which specialises in providing Internet connections, telephone systems and IT support services to businesses, was keen to support the Kintore Cub Scouts once again and potentially inspire the youngsters’ future career choices.
Converged shares technical expertise
Employees at Converged helped Cub Scouts from the group achieve the same badge last year after one of the firm’s employees, business administrator Tanya Lakin who volunteers with the pack, asked the company for its assistance. Tanya realised that the technical expertise of her colleagues made them ideally placed to help the youngsters secure their digital maker badges. The badges that Scout groups chose to undertake are often based on the specific skills of group leaders or contacts that they have.
Converged software developer Chris Toothill designed a coding task for the youngsters that taught them the necessary skills to gain their digital maker badge and potentially be programmers of tomorrow.
Coding is what makes it possible to create software, websites and apps. Each is built using code – one of the most common is HTML, which is used to build websites. Code is a bit like a recipe, it is the set of instructions that makes a computer or software work correctly.
Each child had to demonstrate that they could: connect two devices using either Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or a cable and exchange information between them; use two different platforms or operating systems; create a scout activity app, in this instance a character-based programme to count the score of a group activity; and develop a score board for their characters.
During the two-hour visit, all 13 boys and girls, aged between eight and ten years of age successfully completed the task and gained their badges.
During the session, the group used Raspberry Pi computers, credit card-sized devices designed for teaching programming through fun, practical projects. Converged purchased these last year and will continue to use them to deliver the coding syllabus to up to three other local Scout or Brownie packs each year.
Inspiring future career choices
Neil Christie, managing director of Converged, said: “It was great to welcome 1st Kintore Cubs to Converged again and help the youngsters secure their digital maker badge. They all enjoyed the programming challenges that our team had created and showed some brilliant coding skills that will stand them in good stead in the future.
“Britain faces a major digital skills gap and the suggestion of how the issue is stifling the economy is staggering. Other sectors face similar skills gaps and every business has a responsibility to ensure we have the talent to fulfil future roles. We’ve all got to work together, including supporting schools and groups, to inspire people’s future career choices and equip them with the skills that employers need today and in the future. Varied digital skills are just a small part of this.”