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Guest post: How we grew the Scottish Digital Academy

Blog posted by: , 7 May 2019 – Categories: People and skills.

5 people sitting around a table and putting post-it notes on a piece of paper

The Scottish Digital Academy exists to build capability to deliver digital transformation; we want to equip people with the right digital skills. The Scottish Digital Academy is working in partnership with the GDS Academy.

Since its launch in January 2018, we have grown from a team of 1 to a team of 7, delivering training to 34 Scottish public sector organisations to date. We run 7 different courses but our work doesn’t stop there – we support public sector organisations in a range of different ways.

In this post, I look back at how the Scottish Digital Academy has transformed into its current form, from beginning over an informal chat over coffee in Leeds to having over 900 graduates.  

The beginnings

It all began when we had a discussion at the Digital Academy, which was what the GDS Academy was formerly known as.

We met the team there as part of a discovery to understand how other public sector organisations were upskilling their employees in digital skills.

It was quickly agreed that trialling Digital Academy courses at the Scottish Government would be of mutual benefit to both organisations and a great example of cross-government collaboration.

The key aim of the trial was to see if the courses met our particular user needs and if the Scottish Government should and could set up its own Digital Academy.

Trialling the concept

Over the next 6 months, we trialled venues and courses through the Digital Academy to see how our users would respond to a Scottish Digital Academy.

We had lots of positive responses from participants and realised it was clear that this was something that was needed and wanted in Scotland.

We also discovered challenges during these months. These included us needing to have our own distinct identity as the go-to Digital Academy in Scotland, while still collaborating with the GDS Academy to ensure consistency and best practice was maintained.

What we needed to get started

We found the following things were crucial to setting up:

  • staff: we had to recruit our own agile coaches to deliver courses in Scotland
  • venue: we wanted a flagship venue with plenty of wall space and room to move so a number of different places were trialled
  • branding: we needed to ensure the look and feel of the course materials and any marketing made it clear that we were the ‘Scottish’ Digital Academy
  • local case studies: the training had to be relevant to the participants so we looked for specific Scottish examples to use on the courses
  • collaboration: it was essential to continue with the cross-government collaboration already developed, while being mindful of adapting training for Scottish organisations and their user needs
  • reach: we needed to ensure we reached organisations across the breadth of Scotland – from Shetland to Berwick, and beyond

We officially launched as the Scottish Digital Academy in January 2018.

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