How City Region Deals are investing in digital skills to create Inclusive Growth


The innovative Integrated Regional Employability and Skills (IRES) programme forms part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region deal, and is focused on developing and delivering labour market interventions to help drive inclusive growth. The programme is funded by £25m from the Scottish Government and aims to deliver around 14,700 skills improvements over its eight year funding cycle.

Sitting within the programme are two skills gateways; the Housing Construction and Infrastructure Skills Gateway and Data Skills Gateway. These multi-partner, cross sector programmes aim to address particular skills shortages and prepare citizens for emerging job opportunities across the region.

The Data Skills Gateway is responding to a changing world where data literacy is becoming an important tool for us all. It aims to open up opportunities and make it easy for people to acquire these vital competencies, be that when living as data-informed citizens, working in data-rich jobs or leading organisations where technology is changing the ways things get done. In 2021 the Data Skills Gateway was a top three finalist at the 2021 Digital Leaders 100 awards.

The Gateway has recorded over 10,000 participants across its ground-breaking upskilling programme. Learners in the Edinburgh and the South East of Scotland region now have the opportunity to follow data skills pathways spanning SCQF levels 3 to 10. More than 700 College lecturers and school teaching staff have also benefitted from targeted professional learning programmes which have prepared them to integrate data skills across the curriculum, in subjects as diverse as social care and business studies.

The programme involves close partnership working across schools, colleges, universities and the Data Lab. This joined-up approach has enabled the sharing of resources, development of learning pathways and effective signposting for potential learners.

The Data Skills Gateway has also been exploring ways to reach into new groups of learners, including veterans, women returners and neurodiverse individuals. The team is particularly proud of the award scooped by the Data Education in Colleges project at the recent College Development Network (CDN) annual awards ceremony.

Here Edinburgh College and Access to Industry were recognised for a pilot programme, which they delivered in partnership, and which aimed to upskill low-income parents in digital and data skills, thereby opening up job opportunities which would otherwise have been out of their reach.

As well as engaging young learners through successful outreach workshops in West Lothian and Borders Colleges, the Data Education in Schools project has been working with schools across the region via the Internet of Things (IOT) programme, helping teachers to bring to life data collected from sensors positioned across their school estate.

The Data Skills for Work team has developed a data skills framework and has also awarded data skills credit funding to nearly 500 individuals, organisations and training providers to help develop a vibrant learning environment for local businesses and third sector organisations who recognise the value of embedding data-driven innovation across their operations.

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