Employers urged to look beyond candidates’ tech skills

'A job in digital doesn't necessarily require people to be 'coders',' says Sam Wason of Cathcart Associates, right, with fellow joint MD Gordon Kaye. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
'A job in digital doesn't necessarily require people to be 'coders',' says Sam Wason of Cathcart Associates, right, with fellow joint MD Gordon Kaye. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Employers have been urged to “keep an open mind” and look beyond candidates’ technical abilities to help close Scotland’s digital skills gap.

With almost 13,000 jobs available each year in the country’s digital economy, Edinburgh-based IT recruitment specialist Cathcart Associates said firms need to consider potential employees’ wider background experience given the ongoing shortage of people with “high level” skills.

A job in digital doesn’t necessarily require people to be ‘coders’

Sam Wason

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Research cited by Skills Development Scotland shows almost a third of graduates entering the digital sector come from non-computing backgrounds, such as design, business or physical sciences, hinting at the existence of a “hidden pipeline” of digital talent.

Cathcart Associates, led by joint managing directors Gordon Kaye and Sam Wason, said more employers could stand to benefit by tapping into this pool of skills, particularly if they have the resources to provide on-the-job training.

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Kaye said: “With 12,800 jobs available every year and an average wage of £37,000, it’s hardly surprising that people from all kinds of professional backgrounds are keen to get involved in one of the country’s most innovative sectors.

“It’s important for employers to keep an open mind when recruiting for digital roles given the continuing shortage of people with high level digital skills. There is much to be gained by employers who can invest in re-skilling professionals and graduates who enter the tech sector from different backgrounds. Indeed, they can often bring a different perspective along with transferable skills that make them very valuable.”

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Cathcart said it has seen a rise in the number of companies, especially start-ups, seeking transferable skills such as commercial, business and project management experience, alongside pure technical abilities alone.

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More than 91,000 people are employed in digital technologies roles across the Scottish economy, with 60,000 employed directly by digital businesses. The average full-time salary in the sector has risen from £28,000 in 2010, showing stronger growth than median full-time salaries in Scotland over the same period.

Wason said: “While it is important for companies to adopt a more flexible approach to recruitment, job seekers can take action to boost their chances of working in the sector. A job in digital doesn’t necessarily require people to be ‘coders’ but there are resources available to help people teach themselves key skills like programming.”

He added: “Initiatives like CodeClan are doing a great job at producing a pipeline of talented developers and the Scottish Government’s £36 million fund to support digital skills training for businesses really shows that Scotland is pulling its weight when it comes to supporting the sector.”

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