Harvey Wheaton: Tapping into new digital talent pools

From the days of Alexander Graham Bell to modern day visionaries such as Gareth Williams of Skyscanner, Scotland has proved that its abilities in technical innovation are world-class.

CodeClan chief Harvey Wheaton says Scotland needs to make more of its home-grown digital talent. Picture: Chris Watt
CodeClan chief Harvey Wheaton says Scotland needs to make more of its home-grown digital talent. Picture: Chris Watt

A total of 11,000 job opportunities are created year on year in our tech sector, and while this demand has created a skills gap, the Scottish Government – and many others – believe it to be a major opportunity for young people and those willing to adapt. Scotland has the resources to create fantastic home-grown digital talent.

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We just need to make the most of it. It starts with our generation of digital natives, our future creators of new technology. Currently, our education system is not producing enough skilled IT professionals to meet the needs of employers.

But this can be addressed by inspiring people from a young age, encouraging them to recognise that they can be more than just the consumers of tech: they can be the makers too.

Campaigns like Digital World are doing just this. Created by industry in partnership with Skills Development Scotland, Digital World aims to engage young people across the country in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.The campaign intends to open up digital technology career opportunities to our youth and get them inspired to continue these subjects in school, further education and eventually into their career.

While this is a great long-term solution, the demand for skilled IT professionals is now, which is where initiatives like CodeClan come in.

CodeClan aims to create home-grown talent by fast-tracking people into tech through its 16-week intensive and immersive programming course, which turns students into work-ready junior developers.

Over 200 people have embarked on our course and a significant number of those people have been career-changers. You name it, we’ve had it, from pub landlords to magicians.

Tapping into new pools of talent can help meet industry demand. Most employers love the energy and dedication shown by people who have left the comfort of their old job to seek a new career.

And better yet, they come armed with passion, work experience and valuable transferable skills, making them “hot property”.

Industry support is vital to help make the most of digital talent here in Scotland. At CodeClan, we have established an employer network of over 90 companies. Our aim through this network is to encourage industry collaboration and to act as a vital source of localised talent for Scotland’s tech employers.

Collaboration means the opportunity to work together, to share knowledge and to educate one another, which is key if we are to help Scotland’s burgeoning tech sector scale and grow.

• Harvey Wheaton is chief executive of digital skills and coding academy CodeClan