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The first step

Rachel Menzies is the Undergraduate Programme Director for Computing at the University of Dundee. She talks to us about her experience of being involved with the DSP.

In addition to her ‘day job’ Rachel is the SICSA Director of Education, is a member of the DSP’s Advisory Board, and has arranged for Dundee University representation on two of the DSP’s five national work streams.

What do you see as the benefits of involvement in the DSP?

Education and employment go hand in hand so if universities, colleges and industry work together, our students benefit – they will gain the skills industry needs to meet gaps in the market. The DSP is particularly important for the computing and technology sector because the landscape changes so quickly and their flexible model means we can stay ahead of the curve.

Involvement in the DSP’s work streams is a way for us to address specific issues and to allocate resources to solving evidence-based problems. The variety of stakeholders represented on the DSP ensures the solutions we find will be relevant and applicable right now, so that we can make a difference to our students and the workforce in a meaningful way.

Why did you want to get involved in the DSP’s work stream which deals with ‘supporting students?’

In my role I see many graduates who find the job search difficult; and it’s no wonder. There’s a plethora of jobs available, often with complex titles and confusing descriptions. The rapid expansion of the computing industry means there are many terms and descriptors that mean different things to different people. This can make it difficult for our graduates to define their ‘worth’. Students often end up taking the first job they are offered, even if it’s not an ideal fit.

I wanted to get involved with the ‘supporting students’ work stream because I think it’s a unique opportunity for educators and employers to work together with students for true mutual benefit. Students will have better descriptors for different roles, employers will hire the best person for the job because with clearer job adverts we can expect more qualified and suitable applicants to apply, and educators will have better resources to guide their students.

What will be one of the first activities that you’ll undertake in this area?

We’re going to create a series of video case studies to highlight different pathways into industry.  Students from across Scotland will be able to consult these videos and see examples of how their peers from different educational backgrounds have progressed into employment. These will help students to decide which educational pathway is right for them.

Your institution is also involved in the DSP’s work stream on careers guidance.  Can you tell us about this?

Careers guidance is a key element within education institutions, but in the case of computing and technology, areas of rapid change, it’s key that careers advisors have access to up-to-date, robust labour market information with real industry and employer insight, to do their jobs well. The first action within this work stream is to link careers advisors in further and higher education into Skills Development Scotland’s Digital World Champions (DWC) network.  This network currently upskills SDS’ own careers advisors in digital technologies. So by opening this network up to careers advisors across our colleges and universities, who can share their expertise, contacts, case studies and examples of good practice, we can create a joined up approach to advise students better. Our careers advisor, Stephanie Brewer, is excited to be part of the first phase of this activity and attended SDS’ induction session for FE and HE advisors in October.   

What would you say to others about getting involved with the DSP?

The Digital Skills Partnership is action driven. I’ve been in many groups that are much more of a ‘talking shop’ but this, combined with the friendly and collegiate atmosphere, has encouraged me to be more involved in the group. People from different areas work together on real-life problems with tangible outcomes. In my case, the impact that this can have on my students is huge – it can give them a head start on their first graduate position, setting them up in a career that is right for them. That first step cannot be underestimated.

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