How the Open University is supporting employers in Scotland to tackle the digital skills gap

There is a thriving Fintech sector in Scotland – a lot of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are innovating and growing and doing great things. But the sector needs the right skills in order to keep innovating and growing and some of the most business critical skills are in short supply.

With so much demand on skills such as cyber security, coding, data and software development, it can sometimes take time to get the right people onboarded. The Open University’s (OU) Business Barometer 2020 found that 60% of employers are struggling to find the skills they need to fill vacant roles.

But there is the scope to change the situation. Employers recognise that the best way to address talent shortages is not just to buy in skills, but to also build up internal pipelines and so many are embarking on upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

The OU in Scotland works with 260+ local employers, helping with their upskilling and reskilling programmes. They provide high quality, targeted workforce development solutions, helping employers understand and meet their current and future talent and recruitment needs.


“We pioneered the concept of continuous, lifelong learning - an approach that is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Our innovative tutor-supported online delivery model works particularly well for employers, maximising the opportunity for new knowledge to be readily and directly applied in the workplace. Many of our programmes have a strong work-based element, meaning that individuals enhance their performance through value-add ‘learning on the job’. We ensure learning is flexible and accessible to all,”

Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager (Scotland) at the OU


As a result, with over 20,000 students, the OU is the most popular university in Scotland for part-time higher education. They provide different career pathways – graduate and postgraduate courses and also smaller, modular courses that enable people to do chunks of learning and build up to an overall qualification over time.

In terms of digital skills, the OU provides numerous options – free resources on the OpenLearn platform, microcredentials, apprenticeships, modules and qualifications in computing and IT, cyber security and data science, postgraduate modules and qualifications in computing, cyber security and technology management.

There are various funded learning opportunities available in Scotland to support employers and individuals. The graduate apprenticeships, which are a great way for employers to recruit new employees or upskill and reskill the existing workforce, are fully funded. There’s the SAAS part time fee grant available to those with a personal income of £25,000 per annum or less and there’s the Flexible Workforce Development Fund offering SMEs funded training up to the value of £5,000.

It is widely recognised that Covid-19 has exacerbated the need for digital skills. Now is the time for employers to be investing in workforce skills, to help them recover from the pandemic and meet the challenges of the future.

To find out more about how the OU in Scotland can support your workforce development needs, visit