Scotland’s digital economy is on an upward curve, though its continued growth is also creating a problem: how to fill the increasing number of jobs in skills that until recently barely existed.
Industries have been transformed through digitisation. Just last week it was revealed that the new V&A Museum arising on the riverside in Dundee could not have been built even five years ago.
The technology now available to the design and construction industry, enabling new techniques to be applied and fabulous new outcomes to be created, has brought huge changes to this one sector.
A new industry has been born – fintech – which is driving disruptive technology that will revolutionise the way we do our banking and save for our pension.
New software skills are demanding greater attention from governments, education services and employment agencies in order that they keep up with the rapid rate of change.
With Brexit forcing a rethink on immigration, firms are already turning to home grown talent to fill vacancies, backed by initiatives such as CodeClan, the skills academy which is retraining adults from a variety of backgrounds in the art of coding.
It is tapping into the 31% of graduates entering the digital technologies sector from non-computing science backgrounds such as creative arts and design, business, and physical sciences.
Most who get through its short courses manage to find jobs from employers who are ready and waiting.
New research commissioned by the Digital Technologies Skills Group has shown that Scotland’s digital technology businesses directly employ 60,100 people, but that 91,600 people are now employed in digital technologies roles across all sectors.
With more than half of these digital technologies professionals employed in non-technology sectors such as financial services, it demonstrates the important role technology plays across all parts of the Scottish economy. The number of estimated annual job opportunities has risen to 12,800 – up 16% from the last forecast.
“Businesses are still struggling to recruit staff with the digital skills that can help them to grow,” – Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability
The shortage of skilled people, against rising demand, is pushing up salaries. The average full-time worker in the digital technologies sector has seen his or her salary increase from £28,000 in 2010 to £37,400.
The findings were released at Action on Digital Skills in Scotland: Inspiring Initiatives, an event held in Edinburgh ahead of a full report due to launch in May.
More than 100 representatives from industry, public sector and education attended the conference hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) which explored other initiatives such as work-based learning opportunities, the Digital Xtra Fund for extracurricular computing activities, engagement with schools through Developing the Young Workforce, e-Placement Scotland, and the Digital World careers campaign.
Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn, told delegates that “even with over 90,000 people working in digital technology roles across Scotland, businesses are still struggling to recruit staff with the digital skills that can help them to grow.”
The research looked not just at digital technologies firms, but also at the technology skills needs of non-tech firms in sectors such as financial services, creative industries and the public sector.
Respondents were generally positive about market conditions and two thirds of employers expecting to increase their staff – if they can find them.
Employers said they want technical skills and transferable skills that allow people to be trained on the job. Programming and cyber security skills are highly sought after, as are data analytics and computational skills.
The rapid pace of change in the digital world and its impact on technology and non-technology staff means that up-skilling and re-skilling the existing workforce is also a priority.
Polly Purvis, chief executive of digital technologies trade body ScotlandIS and a member of the Digital Technologies Skills Group, said: “This is a significant moment for the digital technologies industry. It is important that we harness current opportunities so that the sector can continue to contribute to Scotland’s economic prosperity.
“We must respond collectively to the skills challenge to ensure we have the right people with the right skills to support this growth. A number of brilliant initiatives are already under way across Scotland and they show we can achieve more when we work together as an industry.”