Digital skills pilot challenges students with real-life briefs

A programme to develop the collaboration between tech industry and academia and address the digital skills gap in Scotland has completed a successful pilot.

The Digital Skills Partnership programme was rolled out by tech trade association ScotlandIS and supported by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council.

The programme seeks to give students experience of real-world challenges in the software development process. Small groups of learners with different levels of experience and expertise are required to respond to an industry style-brief with very specific deliverables.

Five teams from around Scotland participated in the pilot and were pitted against each other for the chance to win a team prize of £1,000 and gain valuable experience in software development.

Each team received a brief at the end of January 2019 and was paired with an academic lead and an industry mentor from IT solutions companies CAS Ltd and CGI UK.

The teams were:

  • Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College
  • Herriot Watt University and Edinburgh College (two teams)
  • University of Stirling and Forth Valley College
  • University of the West of Scotland and City of Glasgow College

A team from Edinburgh College and Herriot Watt University were crowned the winners at a ceremony at Dundee University.

Edinburgh College software development student Maxime Greffe, who was part of the winning team, said: “We did put a considerable amount of work into this project and it feels extremely rewarding to win and obtain positive feedback from professionals.”

Edinburgh College Computing curriculum manager Sam Blyth said: “The students have been working extremely hard on this project with the team from Heriot Watt University over the last few months and they should feel very proud of their achievements. This is the first time a competition like this has taken place and it has been a great success for the all the students involved.”

Joanna Campbell, chair of the Digital Skills Partnership said: “The true benefit of the programme is that it offers students an insight that goes beyond what can be taught in a classroom, through responding to a live brief with a multi-skilled team and access to real-world tools. This helps contextualise the learning and illustrate how their tertiary education will translate into the workplace.”

Chris Ellis, chief technical officer at CAS Ltd said: “Everyone involved has much to be proud of. It will be great to see this scheme rolled out further and see the results of more rounded work-ready recruits filtering through to the benefit of this dynamic and exciting industry in Scotland.”

For more information on the Digital Skills Partnership, visit