Education and careers: GAs can bridge the fintech skills gap

I recently had the pleasure of attending Scottish Financial Enterprise’s working group held at the National Robotarium, the UK’s centre for robotics and artificial intelligence, based in Edinburgh, where it was exciting to see the level of enthusiasm for Scotland’s prosperity in the financial services sector.
Professor Gillian MurrayProfessor Gillian Murray
Professor Gillian Murray

While opportunity is abundant, the industry faces the challenge of growing skills demand coupled with a shrinking supply of talent – particularly digital roles –as a result of a rapidly changing landscape.

Underlining this, Scottish Financial Enterprise’s recent Skills Action Plan highlighted that two of the most in-demand roles in finance are data analysts and software developers.

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Furthermore, last year’s Scotland Technology Industry Survey, carried out by ScotlandIS, unveiled that more than 70 per cent of employers need more software development talent, and at least60 per cent require further data skills.

That’s why Scotland’s Graduate Apprenticeship initiatives are proving so valuable, bridging the divide between student and employee by embedding academic study within full-time jobs. Blending theoretical grounding with practical application produces well-rounded graduates equipped to excel, while creating links to world-leading academics who’s research holds the answer to many future challenges.

Heriot-Watt’s Data Science programme, for example, is helping immerse learners in statistical analysis, machine learning, and computational techniques tailored to industry needs. Working with industry-leading partner organisations, including Scottish Financial Enterprise, students gain skills not just in mining insights from datasets, but crucially in interpreting findings for better decision-making.

Equally, our Software Development for Business degree equips apprentices with cutting-edge coding capabilities prized by fintech disruptors. From blockchain to mobile platforms, graduates have proficiency in the languages driving financial innovation.

It is clear that a partnership approach between academia and industry is becoming ever more crucial. By working collaboratively, we can help identify emerging trends, anticipate challenges, and develop innovative solutions that keep fintech and data science skills at the forefront of technological advancement.

Also, in line with our mission at Heriot-Watt to provide access to education to all, fully funded fees and salaries paid by employers, Graduate Apprenticeships widen access for talented individuals to upskilling, regardless of background.

With Scottish Apprenticeship Week putting a spotlight on work-based learning programmes, it’s an opportune moment for businesses in the financial services sector to explore how they can leverage alternative learning pathways.

These innovative schemes are vital to democratising access to the high-level skills that will drive Scotland’s future prosperity. Even more crucially, they enable companies to cultivate the expertise they urgently require across cutting-edge fields.

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So this Scottish Apprenticeship Week, I urge more financial services firms to become our partner and get involved in our programmes.

Together, we can generate a more diverse, skilled workforce ready to pioneer the innovations that will fuel growth across Scotland’s digital economy.

Don’t let the skills gaps persist – let’s work together to create the solution.

- Professor Gillian Murray is deputy principal for enterprise and business at Heriot-Watt University.

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