Scotland’s tech sector: Reasons to be optimistic - Michelle Hawkins

Scotland’s economy is on the move, with the independent Scottish Fiscal Commission last week predicting a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth by next summer, well ahead of far gloomier forecasts released in January.

Not only is it avoiding the job losses that had seemed inevitable at the start of this year; recent trends and developments are combining to shape a refreshed sense of optimism that Scotland can create significant numbers of new roles in high value industries, with the tech sector emerging as a prime example.

As last year’s Logan Report highlighted, Scotland’s digital scene increasingly feels like it has a positive story to tell about its status as a place for ambitious, talented people to pursue rewarding careers. This is a trend which seems set to accelerate.

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New investments from established players mix with up-and-comers in the tech sector to create the potential for thousands of new jobs in the next few years. What was once known as the ‘Silicon Glen’ at a time when computer and chip manufacturers flocked to Scotland is now becoming recognised as a ‘Digital Glen’ for its global digital and analytics capacity and capability.

We’re also fortunate that Scotland has excellent college and university education sectors from which companies can draw skilled graduates from diverse backgrounds. For those moving on from full time education in Scotland, the capacity not just to study here but also stay, access jobs, and build a long- term career in Scotland is enticing for many.

We all know that the increased imperative to work from home created by Covid has led to some fundamental re-evaluations of how and where people choose to work. Because many of us can work from anywhere, we have the freedom to relocate to places that have a strong pull not just in terms of good roles available but also quality of life outside work.

Scotland ticks many boxes when it comes to creating an environment in which the best tech talent can thrive. Whether people are working in ultra-desirable city hubs like Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen or in more remote rural locations like the Highlands and Islands, technology has opened up new possibilities.

In March this year Accenture’s Tech Talent Tracker showed resurging demand in the main hubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow for cutting-edge skills such as AI and Quantum Computing as organisations in Scotland aim to accelerate digital transformation.

That trend is gathering pace, meaning that cities both here in Scotland and across the UK are competing hard for the most promising candidates. Out of 3,000 new UK jobs planned by Accenture over the next three years, half of the roles will be based outside of London, with significant numbers in Glasgow and Edinburgh, alongside the likes of Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds.

Adding to the excitement, Scottish Development International 1 found that in the last quarter alone, 14 tech companies have chosen Scotland as a location to set up operations in, creating more than 500 new roles. At the same time, we are seeing a surge in green jobs, while the number of Scottish fintech SMEs within Fintech Scotland has increased by more than 50 per cent over the past 18 months.

New work opportunities are being created because of growing demand for services in data and AI, cloud engineering, and cybersecurity. And one of the things that excites me most is that technology itself allows companies in Scotland to be more and more ambitious, servicing the digital needs of organisations not just locally, but globally too.

Another advantage is that we’re likely to see more opportunities for people who started their careers in Scotland, and have spent time building their careers elsewhere, to ‘come home’ to new roles being created here.

Consequently, competition for staff to help fulfil these growing needs is fierce. An Accenture analysis, ‘Smart Work Anywhere’ on evolving work trends, shows that to attract the top talent at all levels, companies need to focus on shaping an experience for employees that’s both flexible and responsive to the changing circumstances of individuals.

In truth, factors like greater autonomy, better support and having a sense of purpose are what matter most.

Get these right and with the current rate of public and private investment, excellent education institutions, and a great quality of life there’s arguably never been a better time to be in the tech sector in Scotland.

Michelle Hawkins, MD for Accenture Scotland

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