AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN says Scotland will be poorer for the demise of the digital training academy
The creation of an innovative digital training academy in 2015 to help nurture Scotland’s nascent tech sector was greeted with huge enthusiasm and even gave the fledgling Daily Business an early scoop. On Friday we revealed that CodeClan had appointed liquidators, a sad end to a project that had given the Scottish tech sector a widely-recognised advantage.
CodeClan, which occupied offices next door to tech incubator CodeBase at the foot of the castle, offered something beyond the typical training facility. It was based on a new breed of intensive coding schools such as Makers, launched in London in 2013; Stackademy in Berlin, and the Flatiron School in New York.
It took individuals of any age and experience and retrained them in the newly-required software skills such as design and programming. In the process it was helping to create a home-grown supply of labour for the burgeoning tech sector. It expanded from its Edinburgh base into Glasgow and Inverness and helped promote Scotland to inward investors and entrepreneurs as a forward thinking nation.
It worked with more than 300 industry partners, including Skyscanner, FanDuel, DC Thomson, BlackRock, Tesco Bank, and Sainsbury’s Bank. It launched the CodeClan Youth Academy with the support of Baillie Gifford, an eight-week programme for young people aged 17 and over, designed to provide the kind of programming skills required in an industry environment. In February it signed a deal with recruitment agency Eden Scott.
In November last year, after her appointment as its third CEO, Loral Quinn announced plans to “scale the operation” and help fill 20,000 software jobs. CodeClan, she said, was “perfectly placed to help close the digital skills gap, and the current hiring and upskilling crisis”.
The liquidator said that market conditions have hit the flow of business placements, which tells us that the sector is not burgeoning quite as much as we’d like to believe. Inverness was closed two years ago.
Even so, there has to be longer term value in this project and there are already calls to help get it back on its feet, including a crowdfund, or for the government to step in. Along with the pitching competition Scottish Edge, it was a favourite of the former minister John Swinney who made a number of visits to the academy.
It surely fits perfectly with the government’s digital economy strategy which led to the appointment of chief entrepreneur Mark Logan, whose plans for tech scalers and restructuring of education to meet the digital agenda will take a severe blow from CodeClan’s demise.
At the time of writing there was nothing more than a holding statement from the government, and nothing of note from any minister to prove that Holyrood really has a digitally-beating heart.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business