Reflecting back and looking forward

Lee Dunn, Head of the Scottish Digital Academy looks back at 2022 and considers the next steps in developing digital skills, capability and talent in Scotland, by evolving the offer of professional learning and support available from the Scottish Government.

Post by Lee Dunn, Head of the Scottish Digital Academy


As we start a new year, I’d like to take a retrospective view on 2022, to consider how far we’ve come and to think about the year ahead. It’s been fast and furious and the development of digital skills remains a priority. I have no doubt that 2023 will be equally demanding!

The challenge of the pandemic continues to present itself economically and many of us are still working from home, at least one or two days per week. But despite this, what gives me hope is seeing so many people seeking opportunities to work differently and to pool resources and expertise to achieve a common goal.

Our collective efficacy remains strong and we’re determined to succeed by working together. 

So, what happened last year and what will we do in the year ahead?

The Digital Strategy for Scotland, A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world was updated in 2021 and the Academy subsequently published a strategic business plan to set out our objectives for 2022. Our team plays a crucial role in the delivery of digital skills in Scotland and we recognise the continuing need to focus on five thematic priorities:

  • leadership
  • professional learning
  • innovation
  • partnership
  • community

We compiled our first monitoring report in October to better understand how well we were meeting our objectives. We know that we’re beginning to make a positive impact based on the data that we have available to us. For example, the past twelve months saw our team deliver a range of courses across the public and third sectors and despite the challenges, we delivered professional learning to 1,239 people in 2022, which increased from 601 in 2020/21 and 769 in 2019/20.

I want to build upon our performance measures and to further deepen our narrative to illustrate the value that we offer by looking beyond the numbers.

But we cannot do that alone, and working with our partners will remain a priority as we begin to focus more on benefits realisation and impact. We’ll also take an international perspective when digging into the art of the possible.

New courses based on the Scottish Approach to Service Design have proven popular, with 344 people undertaking Service Design Champions and the Digital Scotland Service Standard Awareness courses in 2022. This is a 94 per cent increase on delegates undertaking service design professional learning in 2020/21.

We need to go further as we know that demand for skills development remains high especially where organisations are undergoing transformation.

Our success in 2022 is down to the commitment within our team and the introduction of several new courses related to agile delivery. The development of digital skills, capability and talent can often be a confusing landscape. We started to develop a series of learning pathways last year and we’re now working on more. Our pathways are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to illustrate breadth and depth of learning and indicate skills progression across job roles. The introduction of Microsoft cloud training courses has strengthened our ability to connect people to certified training and you’ll see more in the coming months.

We strengthened our leadership offer with a focus on building knowledge and confidence and in developing a learning ethos based on trust, honesty, challenge and support; promoting the growth of professional capital and an awareness of agile practices. We continue to see growing numbers of delegates participating in our leadership programmes. We’ve now delivered to over 425 senior leaders across the public sector in Scotland and we continue to sponsor spaces on leadership programmes on Empowering Women to Lead Digital Transformation and Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security. Diversity remains a priority. The introduction of the Leading in a Digital World and Fit for the Future programmes were also highlights of the year.

We’ve built on existing communities by providing frequent learning opportunities. Most of those progressing through our leadership programmes will become our alumni and future ambassadors, helping us to build our capacity and increase our reach. We’ve made ourselves available where appropriate to support other communities and to facilitate or contribute to events and conferences. At the end of January, we’ll facilitate the first Alumni event of the year with guest speakers including Mr Ivan McKee MSP and Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Lesley Fraser Director General Corporate and Geoff Huggins, Director Digital at the Scottish Government. 

Our team explored opportunities to use new and emerging technology to support our online training delivery. In 2021, we sponsored a CivTech® Challenge which sought a technological solution to support the future of immersive digital professional learning. I’m delighted that we concluded this project last year and we’re now engaged in the development of an inclusive and immersive learning application called Neve, that supports approaches to hybrid and mixed modes of learning.

We introduced a new Stakeholder Forum in August 2021, which acts as a critical friend, steering our ambition and our strategic themes. I’d like to see this evolve into an advisory format later this year, to reflect on any recommendations that arise from the independent review of skills delivery.

I’m passionate about the connection between the wider education system and in developing careers information, advice and guidance as well as learning experiences in digital, data and technology as this is essential in addressing the skills gaps and talent pipeline.

We’ll be doing more in this space throughout the year. As we continue to grow our portfolio and signpost to learning opportunities provided elsewhere within the technology learning eco-system, we’ll also develop and implement an assurance programme that underpins high quality professional learning experiences.

As our portfolio, reach and scope continues to grow, the Scottish Digital Academy has identified a roadmap of activity. It’s time to review and refresh our plan given the pace of change that we’re experiencing. The thematic priorities will continue to align our vision to allow us to embed our offer of professional learning whilst seeking to measure the impact of our work in the short, medium and longer term.

Ultimately, we wish to understand our contribution and value in supporting positive outcomes against the National Performance Framework and in addressing the fiscal climate through our approach to funding, procurement and entrepreneurial thinking.

We already know that we can’t realise our ambition by ourselves and we need to continue to work with others. We’ll further develop our partnerships to either introduce or scale up opportunities and to connect people together, for example by working with executive agencies and local government.

As I review 2022 and look forward to 2023, I could not be more proud of the work we’re doing and I know that collectively, we can make a real difference.

Connect with me on Twitter @OfficialLeeDunn


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