Polly Purvis: Scotland’s IT skills shortage needs addressed

SCOTLAND has a world-class IT and digital technologies industry and, as long as we can secure the talented people needed to support the industry’s continued growth, we can look forward to a bright future.

Tech incubator CodeBase in Edinburgh. Picture: submitted

Some 80,000 people work in digital technology roles in Scotland, in software development, telecoms, IT services and digital agencies, generating almost £4 billion of economic value for the Scottish economy.  The Scottish Government calculate that more than 10,000 new people are needed every year to fill the high-value roles the industry generates. 

This is a vibrant industry with companies involved in everything from building mobile apps for travel and major festivals, creating websites for multinational companies, generating smart healthcare analytics, installing the latest in modern communications systems, developing sophisticated power management software, control systems for the aviation sector, the software that powers the ATMs in your local bank - the list is endless.  And many of these companies sell around the world, earning export income for Scotland.  

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At ScotlandIS, securing the talent of the future for the digital technologies industry is a priority for us.  We have been very much involved in the development in the Skills Investment Plan for the Digital Technologies and ICT Industries, launched last year.  We are looking forward to seeing that turn from planning into action over the next few months, with a new higher and advanced higher curriculum being introduced at schools, a major marketing campaign aimed at encouraging young people to consider careers in the industry, and increased emphasis on apprenticeships amongst a range of initiatives to be launched over the next year.

The real challenge we face as an industry is how to close the skills gap.  We need to highlight the wealth of interesting roles the sector offers, and encourage people to be not just users but also makers of technology.  We’re looking for many more people to join the industry through modern apprenticeships, from college and university and by changing career.  People who have already worked in another industry can bring valuable experience and expertise to jobs in digital technologies.   

Currently about 3-4,000 people start new careers in the industry each year - but that’s not even half the people we need. Closing the skills gap is a major challenge.

About ScotlandIS

Polly Purvis is Chief Executive of ScotlandIS, the trade body for the digital technologies industry, which represents over 300 software, telecoms, IT and digital agency businesses - from global players to small, highly-specialist companies. Its remit is to raise the profile of the industry in Scotland, lobby policy makers on relevant issues and support members in the development of business relationships with customers, suppliers and partner companies. ScotlandIS will speak at The Scotsman Conferences event The Apprentice; building a strong, skilled and diverse workforce for Scotland on May 19th