Tories blast SNP over drop in IT student levels

Education Secretary Angela Constance was criticised for prior comments made about IT courses. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Education Secretary Angela Constance was criticised for prior comments made about IT courses. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Scottish Government should be doing more to encourage people to follow a career in information technology (IT) amid falling student numbers, according to the Conservatives.

Figures sourced by the party reveal the number of IT students at Scottish colleges to have halved in the last five years with 21,800 studying last year, down from 45,900 in 2009/10.

It is shocking that the Scottish Government have not been promoting these courses given the Audit Scotland report last month

Conservative education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon

Two-fifths of small business have reported some IT skills gaps and a further 16 per cent have reported considerable gaps, the Federation of Small Business said last week.

However, the Conservatives have accused Education Secretary Angela Constance of belittling IT courses after she described some as teaching “how to use a mouse and how to organise your calendar at Christmas”.

Conservative education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said: “Given the skills shortage, these numbers speak for themselves. The Scottish Government should be encouraging more people to train in IT.

“IT specialists are essential to the work of government and the public sector as well as business.

“It is shocking that the Scottish Government have not been promoting these courses given the Audit Scotland report last month, which stated that the lack of digital skills in the public sector remains a significant problem.

“The SNP should be working with colleges to equip students with the skills that are needed but they haven’t thought about the skills shortage.

“The cabinet secretary refers to these courses as ‘how to work a mouse’, however IT is one of the most sought after skills needed for both small and large businesses to get ahead.

“Scotland needs to be keeping up with the rest of the world when it comes to IT and digital skills. We should be world-leading, not lagging behind.”

Speaking in Holyrood last month, Ms Constance said: “The number of places for recognised IT qualifications has largely been held static, but there has been a deprioritisation in the range of computing courses that are about things such as how to work a mouse and how to organise your calendar at Christmas.

“I am not saying that those things are not important ... I am saying that a range of ICT courses are available in the FE sector and it is important that the sector focuses on ICT courses that enable people to get into jobs, which are HNC level and higher level courses.”