Laura Casci, BJSS Head of Delivery in Scotland, explains why she and the global technology consultancy signed up to take part in Tech Industry in the Classroom, a new programme developed by SDS to inspire school pupils to pursue digital skills and related careers.
Why did you get involved in Tech Industry in the Classroom in the first place?
We got involved with Tech Industry in the Classroom as it aligns with our belief in helping young people from all backgrounds to develop the digital skills they need to thrive in the future. Furthermore, it has become increasingly important for organisations to create a rich digital talent pool, which organisations like BJSS can tap into as we continue to grow, which ultimately is great for Scotland’s long-term economy.
And what did you as a company get out of participating in the project?
Giving back to the local community is a core value of ours. Initiatives like Tech Industry in the Classroom are extremely valuable as they allow us to reinforce this value.
It gives our people the opportunity to get involved in worthwhile initiatives. The BJSS team in Scotland was delighted to support the Industry in the Classroom programme from ideation through to development and delivery. It was a valuable and empowering experience for all those involved.
The highlight for the team was presenting the developed material, showcasing real-life IT skills in a classroom and seeing the reaction and enthusiasm of the children.
BJSS as a company has also benefited. It has been an opportunity to increase our reputation as a community-driven, social aware employer which is a great place to work, by demonstrating that there is the opportunity for everyone at BJSS in Scotland to get involved in beneficial community initiatives outside of the normal day to day client work.
What exactly did you bring to the project?
BJSS collaborated with Skills Development Scotland and Digital Skills Education to ideate, design and deliver an interactive virtual presentation to schoolchildren aged 10-14. The topic focused on what it’s like to work in the IT industry.
Two female BJSS staff members (Software Tester Anita Squires and Data Insight Engineer Eva Gilburt) delivered this presentation to inspire girls to opt for a career in IT and tech. The content covered the day-to-day reality of a job in the industry. It explored how various teams are needed to bring a software project to release. We also set up a group activity where the children were tasked with designing an online cinema booking system. The presentation has been developed to be delivered again by non-BJSS staff. This also includes a lesson plan that teachers can use after the presentation.
What do you hope the pupils and teachers got out of your session(s)?
First and foremost we hope the children enjoyed themselves, and we demonstrated that IT can be fun. They should also come away with a better understanding of how IT is used in everyday situations, and it’s not a subject just for boys and is not a subject just about software development. Finally, we hope the pupils and teachers both got better insights into the many and varied career paths to get into digital tech.
During the session, the pupils and staff specifically noted that Eva came through a traditional university route into a graduate role and then into consultancy. Anita has come into tech a little later in her career journey through an industry recognised digital skills academy.
How would you sell/pitch Tech Industry in the Classroom to other companies, and what advice would you give others thinking of getting involved?
Organisations must be reaching out and enthusing school children in all things digital now before it is too late. We need to ensure we get the skills, capabilities and capacity we need in the future to support our business growth and the broader economy, whether you class yourself as a digital business or not.
My simple advice is to get involved in these initiatives. It’s such a small investment that can go a long way to creating a positive future. You’ll also be surprised by how many of your team are willing to give up some of their time to do something worthwhile. We find that all the time in BJSS.
As a bonus, the visibility and credibility of these initiatives can improve your brand image and support your recruitment efforts.
What other things are you doing in this area to promote digital skills to schools and pupils?
Lots! It’s part of the BJSS culture and values, and given the challenging 18 months we’ve all had, we felt that increasing our contribution was critical. The below is an example of initiatives aimed at school-age children, but we have an expanded programme that also supports getting an increased number of graduates into jobs.
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION CHARTER: BJSS has signed up to the Digital Technology Education Charter, promising to volunteer time and expertise to support, encourage and inspire the next generation of computer science students at school.
DIGITAL XTRA FUND: They awards grants of up to £5,000 to schools and educational organisations to deliver innovative, inspiring extracurricular tech activities for under-16s, and I joined the Application Evaluation Panel contributing time and expertise to score applications for the fund.
CRITICAL FRIENDS PROGRAMME: Five BJSS staff members have committed to taking part in the ScotlandIS initiative to help school teachers across Glasgow and Lanarkshire inspire and encourage more young people to take computer science as a subject.
POSITIVE ACTION IN HOUSING: Positive Action in Housing is an independent homelessness and human rights charity dedicated to supporting women, children and men from refugee and migrant backgrounds rebuild their lives. The organisation supports over 100 people seeking asylum in Glasgow who require a laptop to continue studying at school, college or university, and we donated laptop machines to support this.
DYW SCHOOL COORDINATORS TECH INDUSTRY BRIEFING: BJSS collaborated with SDS to deliver a briefing to Developing the Young Workforce (DYW)’s school coordinators, who link high schools and the wider Scottish industry. This took the form of a virtual Q&A session to educate school coordinators about the tech sector, particularly trends in skills and recruitment.
STEMAspire PROGRAMME: Five of the BJSS team in Scotland have volunteered to mentor female STEM students, with the aim of helping them achieve roles in SEM careers.
Tech Industry in the Classroom is delivered and driven by SDS but fully supported by:
- AWS GetIt
- Digital Xtra Fund
- Developing the Young Workforce
- Education Scotland
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Tech Army
- SSERC/STEM Ambassadors
- Young Person's Guarantee