Scotland has shown time and again that it has the ability to adapt and even reinvent itself to remain an economic force.
As the country continues to look beyond the horizon, both economically and politically, the importance of a skilled workforce is undeniably mission-critical.
The number of Scots educated to degree level is proportionally higher than anywhere else in the UK outside of London at 41 per cent, giving rise to the perception internationally that Scotland produces an expert local workforce.
Figures from the financial services sector reflect that depth of talent. In Edinburgh in pre-crash 2008, there were 375 financial services companies employing 36,000 people while in 2013 there were 445 organisations in the same sector, employing more than 40,000 people.
However, other sectors are finding it hard to hire the right candidates. In the oil and gas sector for instance, the challenge is compounded by the high level of employment amongst skilled professionals, high wages and ageing specialists. Clearly there is good work being done by the industry and educational institutions to design market-relevant courses, such as the MBA courses at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University and at Edinburgh, but it shows that easing the talent shortage takes time, planning and continued investment.
That said, the expertise Scotland must gain is in digital. Organisations worldwide are embracing digital to create competitive advantage in their respective industries and markets. Even in oil and gas, digital technologies are improving operational efficiencies, reducing costs, overcoming workforce shortages and helping energy companies achieve speed and scale.
As the potential for digital technologies takes hold, we will see a massive transformation of all businesses, from digitising processes in the oil and gas industry to engaging with customers in real time. This is where Scotland’s talent development needs to focus.
Even as the government implements plans to create a world-class, future-proofed infrastructure to deliver digital connectivity across Scotland by 2020, without a deep pool of digital savvy employees coming through, the opportunities over the next horizon could be missed.
• Mike Byrne is MD within Accenture Management Consulting