ScotlandIS Interim CEO, Karen Meechan has been recognised by FutureScot in their article featuring the ‘stand-out stars of Scotland’s digital technology education sector’.
Named amongst 30 leading figures in Scotland’s edutech landscape – including Toni Scullion, founder of dressCode, and Mark Logan, author of the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review – Karen was mentioned for establishing her Critical Friends initiative in schools across Glasgow.
This programme, in partnership with Dr Nicola Crawford at DYW Glasgow (also recognised by FutureScot), links up ‘mentors’ from the tech industry with computing science teachers, to offer them insight into the sector as it stands and to help encourage more young people to take Computer Science as a subject.
ScotlandIS has been running Critical Friends since 2018, previously matching mentors with university and college lecturers to pass on knowledge to the students entering the tech industry. This year’s programme is aimed at an even earlier stage in education – secondary schools.
We know that a large part of the reason the skills gap in our industry exists is because of the drop of rates throughout school of children and young people taking the subject or having the opportunity to.
By bridging this gap between industry and education, tech mentors can work with teachers to let them know where the new technologies are, ensure the curriculum is relevant, help them advocate for better funding for their department, and give pupils better insight into the current skills required for employment in the tech sector.
Some of the businesses involved in the initiative include PwC, Virgin Money, Amazon, Leidos, Morgan Stanley and Adobe.
In a recent article for The Herald, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager Kraig Brown (also recognised by FutureScot) acknowledged the need for such an initiative.
“It’s a very, very exciting approach and I know that there are plans to roll this out beyond Glasgow”, Kraig says. “Overall, we need to ensure consistency of coverage, ideally across the whole country – there has to be more collaboration over this.
“Ensuring young people have opportunities to learn digital skills must now be as much a right as their right to learn how to read and write or their right to physical exercise.”
Following implementation of the Critical Friends programme in Glasgow, Karen indeed hopes to establish it far and wide across the country in order to ensure as many children as possible have access to real industry knowledge and role models in the tech sector. ScotlandIS and DYW are currently in the process of recruiting tech industry mentors for 60 schools in Lanarkshire, in the next phase of the programme.
With this new status as an influencer in Scotland’s digital technology education sector, Karen Meechan’s ambition is for the programme to increase digital career opportunities for children of all backgrounds across Scotland and potentially, one day, the UK as a whole. Watch this space.