Scotland must build its digital literacy to capitalise on the tech revolution - Stuart Chalmers

AI will impact everyone, so Scotland’s businesses must develop the skills to compete on a global scale, says Stuart Chalmers

Scottish business has huge potential to lead in data and generative AI. With growing investment in AI causing the most significant change to the workforce since the Industrial Revolution, we need to start thinking differently about technology skills if we’re to lead the charge.

The government’s latest UK Employer Skills Survey (2022) shows that one-third (33 per cent) of Scotland’s skills shortage vacancies are due to a lack of digital skills. This includes foundation skills such as being able to turn on computers, change passwords, carry out basic computer software functions, use the internet and communicate via email. According to Skills Development Scotland’s Digital Economy Skills Action Plan 2023-2028, growing digital skills across the nation’s economy could help realise a potential £25 billion economic gain. To achieve this, organisations must prioritise and support the development of foundational digital and generative AI skills to help foster a prosperous, higher skilled and higher wage economy.

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The good news is that the AI boom is creating opportunities for technology skills to flourish in Scotland. The latest findings from Accenture's UK Tech Talent Tracker show that demand for AI expertise across the UK has jumped up by nearly half, and Scotland is taking a share of that technology labour market. Glasgow recorded the greatest increase in technology professionals over the last six months (27 per cent) while the AI talent pool in Edinburgh expanded by over half – cementing Scotland as an emerging hub for technology talent.

Stuart Chalmers, Co-lead Accenture Scotland (Picture: John Need)Stuart Chalmers, Co-lead Accenture Scotland (Picture: John Need)
Stuart Chalmers, Co-lead Accenture Scotland (Picture: John Need)

Generative AI can boost human capabilities and productivity and has the potential to disrupt every industry. The prevalence across all professions means you can’t just deploy technology on its own, its success requires a talent strategy too. A small group of specialised experts can only take us so far – universal digital literacy will be our true strength. AI is not just the preserve of technologists. At Accenture, we’re already helping clients across multiple industries to implement it across their organisations. For example, a leading energy company is reinventing their customer services with generative AI solutions that ensure every customer issue lands promptly with the correct team and the availability of predictive responses can speed up replies.

It is people, not bots, who will lead this new technology revolution. The natural next step is for a collaboration between employers and educational institutions to empower people with technology skills, to upskill our workforce, and ensure a pipeline of talent equipped for the digital economy. We still have some way to go. Recent research shows that over two-thirds of British executives have already implemented some form of AI training in their organisation, and just over half (51 per cent) of UK businesses are planning academic partnerships offering training on targeted AI skills.

Scottish businesses must develop the skills to compete on a global scale. And it means more than hiring an army of software engineers. Because the AI revolution will impact everyone.

At Accenture, we’re optimistic about the opportunities generative AI presents to society and broader economy. Scotland can be a leader in the generative AI workplace revolution – but only if we equip of our people with a strong base of technology skills to navigate its implementation and make the most of a technology that holds so much promise for productivity.

Stuart Chalmers, Co-lead Accenture Scotland



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