CodeClan marks a major milestone - Nick Freer

CodeClan marked a milestone this week, with the two thousandth graduate from one of the range of software development and data analytics courses run by the Melinda Matthews-Clarkson-led not-for-profit organisation. In her words, CodeClan has become “integral to Scotland’s digital future”.

Digital skill academy CodeClan's Edinburgh campus
Digital skill academy CodeClan's Edinburgh campus

Scotland’s digital future has been a hotter topic than ever before over the last twelve months, in no small part sparked by the publication of the Scottish technology ecosystem review by Mark Logan last year. Logan was back in the press this week, with a worrisome view that our nation’s computing science students are lagging behind their European counterparts in Scotland’s higher education system.

Logan’s gist is that the issue stems from the standard of computing science teaching in Scotland’s secondary schools. It’s an area that organisations like Digital Xtra Fund are addressing, with a mission for “every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live”.

In many ways, the so-called talent pipeline, which enables companies to access the right kind of qualified people, goes right back to the grassroots, and that’s why the whole holistic educational piece is so important.

In my own dealings with the Scottish tech scene, my back of a napkin estimate is that for every company that is able to hire the requisite amount of programmers and developers, there is another who finds it extremely difficult to identify key hires from the local talent pool. On client calls with journalists over the last couple of weeks alone, I’ve heard that divergence of view on more than one occasion.

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Global tech bible Wired magazine approached us earlier this year to source a couple of technology companies who could comment on how their hiring processes were impacted during the pandemic. We lined up Trustpilot, who have a growing R&D hub in Edinburgh, and Peter Proud-founded Forrit, with both companies subsequently featured in the piece.

We also put Wired in touch with Edinburgh-based Kelli Buchan, who has helped build teams for the likes of FanDuel and Administrate. Buchan explained to Wired that while Scottish startups and scale-ups are continuing to attract investment and hire, the real uncertainty is around how long we’re going to be working in a pandemic-impacted fashion.

In Scotland, in common with the rest of the world, there is an ongoing war for talent. If you look at one end of the spectrum, Alphabet-owned Google plans to hire 30,000 people next year according to CEO Sundar Pichai. In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Pichai said that the $2 trillion-valued tech giant is tackling diversity by hiring outside of Silicon Valley in metropolises like Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.

Talking of digital skills, Pichai didn’t have a computer or access to the internet growing up. In fact, he didn’t own his own computer until he moved to the United States and attended Stanford University on a scholarship. Today, he oversees Google’s ever deeper push into artificial intelligence and quantum computing, areas he believes will be the most revolutionary tech trends over the next decade.

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Nick Freer is the founding director of strategic communications agency the Freer Consultancy

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