Programme details and speaker biographies

Programme guide

Introductory video

Day 1 - Monday 29 March 2021

 Keynote 1 - Future vision for digital career development



 Panel 1 - Digital support for learners and job seekers

Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Adviser/Writer - Working Towards A Digital Careers Service 

Traditional methods of working with students providing a face-to-face service are not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic. This presentation explores how Careers Services can sustain themselves through providing a remote service, that at the heart of it embraces technology and new ways of working to provide a successful service to the general public and student population.

David Coyne, Senior Policy Adviser, SDS - Supporting Adults to transition in a turbulent Labour Market

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is the National Skills Agency and is responsible for implementing the Government’s strategies on skills and employment, and for delivering a national careers guidance service and funding Apprenticeships. In addition, SDS provide Labour Market Intelligence on a regional and sectoral basis to facilitate skills planning. In 2019 SDS embarked on a project to develop a digital platform specifically aimed at engaging more working adults in career management and planning for job transitions. The pandemic has heightened the importance of that work and a broad platform of digital resources are under development.

Day 2 - Tuesday 30 March

Keynote 2 - Artificial intelligence and careers advice

The bots are coming: AI and Social Technology, presented by Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, CareerChat Ltd

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the impact of the pandemic are changing the meaning of “career”. Massive change is underway in how work is done, the environments in which people work and ways of finding a job that suits particular interests and needs. Contemporary career or livelihood conversations often include: where are the jobs? what’s involved in working in certain sectors or jobs? how do I easily find local trustworthy course or volunteer information? how can I set up my own business? and, most importantly, where can I go for careers support, if needed? This keynote will explore contemporary issues and introduce an innovative bot applied in a careers context.

Panel 2 - Digital ethics and inclusion

Jo Riches, Founder of Ayres Consulting Ltd, Life/Business Coach, Mentor & Yoga Teacher - Focussing on inclusion in the digital sector and why it’s so important, I plan to cover the following:

  • An introduction to the Women Tech Network: who they are, what they do and why women in the tech space need to be a part of it!
  • Having a shared purpose: why community, connection and communication is so important

Debbie Forster MBE, CEO Tech Talent Charter - How the tech sector is coming together to become more inclusive and diverse

Debbie will give an overview how organisations like the Tech Talent Charter, Tech She Can, Institute of Coding and Future Dot Now are helping tech employers come together to create a move inclusive and diverse workforce and the work they are doing in UK classrooms, in university degrees and informal training routes and how you can advise others about this.





Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Adviser/Writer. A highly competent, accomplished career professional with over twenty-five years’ worth of experience working in schools, further education, and community projects as well as higher education, he writes regularly for magazines such as Future Mag, and Career Mag, as well as Rate My Apprenticeship. He currently holds the position of Career Columnist for Promote Ed, and regularly contributes to Leicester College’s Career Blogs, as well as FE News nationally and on LinkedIn. He is an accomplished speaker and facilitator and has been a key note speaker. Alongside his careers work, Sarfraz is a poet, author of several collections of acclaimed published poetry and is a member of the Careers Writers Association.

David Coyne is Senior Policy Adviser on Labour Market, Employability and Fair Work in Skills Development Scotland. He supports the leadership in the organisation in the formation of policy and services in Scotland’s changing skills and employment landscape. He has a rich background in economic development, with experience of infrastructure, employability, neighbourhood regeneration and international development. His current focus is on developing new digital platforms to engage adults who have had their employment disrupted by the Pandemic. When not working he will most likely be cycling, cooking, or camping with his family.

Debbie Forster MBE, CEO Tech Talent Charter is an award-winning figure in the areas of diversity, tech, innovation and education. Computer Weekly named her as the Most Influential Woman in UK IT for 2019. She is CEO for the Tech Talent Charter, an award winning industry collective which aims to deliver greater inclusion and diversity in the UK tech workforce. Debbie is a trustee for the British Council, serves on the Institute of Coding's Diversity Board and the government's Digital Economy Council. Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) named her Woman of the Year for 2016 and she was awarded an MBE in 2017 for “Services to Digital Technology and Tech Development”. Debbie has 20 years experience in UK education and was CEO of the award-winning edtech charity Apps for Good for 6 years.

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, CareerChat Ltd, specialises in lifelong guidance policies, research and practice at an international, national and regional level. She is a UK expert in lifelong guidance and careers education (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Education, 2017 – present). Deirdre advised the Scottish Government on its national Careers Strategy (2020) and Careers Wales on its a new 5-year vision and strategy (2021-2026). She has applied the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in careers work and co-developed CiCi™ a bot using social technology. She is prolific writer, researcher and policy adviser promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. Deirdre is also Director of dmh associates, an Associate Fellow at the University of Warwick, Institute for Employment Research (IER) and Co-Editor of the British Journal for Guidance and Counselling: International Symposium Series.

Jo Riches, Founder of Ayres Consulting Ltd, Life/Business Coach, Mentor & Yoga Teacher. I’m passionate about inspiring women to lead with confidence, stand tall (in bare feet) and own their space! Through my coaching, mentoring and wellbeing practices, I support women who have the desire to stand TALL in their careers, but are lacking in confidence, recognition of their abilities, experiencing imposter syndrome and unsure what direction to take. I guide my clients to make transformation in their lives and to shape the careers they truly desire. As an IT Professional for over 25 years, I understand first-hand the challenges faced by women in this environment and how important it is to change the status quo, to make the Tech space more inclusive and to empower women to shine bright in this space!