Investment strategy aims to tackle IT skills shortage

THE Scottish Government is poised to unveil a skills investment strategy for the IT and digital media sector in an effort to stem an impending crisis for talent that threatens to thwart growth.

Serious problem: Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS. Picture: Contributed

Companies such as flight search group Skyscanner have been forced to look to mainland Europe in their efforts to recruit staff.

Polly Purvis, chief executive of trade body ScotlandIS, told Scotland on Sunday: “We are now at a point where this is a serious problem. The lack of access to people is potentially starting to hold back growth.

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“Skyscanner, for example, has very ambitious plans and it can not do that without the right people. But that is true across the industry.”

She said the intervention of Skills Development Scotland (SDS) had come after five years of highlighting to a range of government bodies the need for support in the skills agenda.

“It has been slow,” she said. “In the last 18 months they have really recognised there is a potential problem and in the past year have started taking it very seriously.”

SDS has developed skills investment plans for a range of core industries including energy, engineering, food & drink and tourism, with the IT sector version due to be published in late summer.

Chris Brodie, the key industry sector manager for SDS, said the strategy would address awareness among school-age pupils as well as teachers about the opportunities in the sector.

He said: “Developing the skills investment plan for the sector is in recognition that it is a growing sector in recruitment mode. It has big opportunities for Scotland.

“What we do in terms of the future pipeline for talent is quite important. One of the challenges with the sector is that skills requirements are moving very fast. Two years ago cloud computing would have been the number one issue – but that is now old news. We aim to keep the knowledge of educators up to date.”

Purvis said the plan would address a reluctance among young people to take an interest in core digital technology skills.

Nigel Eccles, the chief executive of fantasy sports game firm Fanduel, said he found the market for hiring software engineers in Scotland was competitive but “there are some really good people out there”.

With two offices, one in Edinburgh and New York, the company finds itself looking to the US for greater depths of experience.

He added: “There’s a lot of talented engineers here. Where we have had difficulty is in hiring more senior people – development leads, managers and vice-president engineering level.”

Purvis added: “It isn’t rocket science, but it gives us a platform from which action can be taken.”