Minding skills gap is key to economic future

14 January 2020
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Last month, Inoapps hosted Scotland’s Business and Skills Minister, Jamie Hepburn MSP, and representatives from across the nation’s digital economy to discuss how we address the digital skills gap.

There are currently upwards of 100,000 people employed in technology roles in Scotland. The sector’s Gross Value Added contribution towards the overall Scottish economy is estimated to be worth around £4.9bn per year with the potential to rise significantly higher.

There is an annual requirement for an additional 13,000 digital jobs in Scotland but we are only currently producing around 5,000 new recruits each year through universities or apprenticeships.

A report by PWC last year outlined the economic opportunity forecasting that 7.2 million new digital jobs will be created across the UK by 2037. It also highlighted the threat, suggesting 30 per cent of existing jobs, including a high proportion of those presently carried out by female workers, are at risk from automation by 2030.

The Scottish business community is already feeling the strain of the digital skills gap. Research published by technology sector body ScotlandIS suggests that 75 per cent of employers are experiencing difficulties in recruiting qualified digital staff. This coincides with a 31 per cent reduction in computing education and is coupled with a high dropout rate of computer science undergraduates.

While we may not be in a good place at present, there is hope for the future. Scotland can fully realize the digital opportunity and avoid the pitfalls of complacency but it will require an intensive effort from both business and government with a much stronger focus on promoting and delivering digital skills training. 

Companies have an important role to play here. Inoapps is currently involved in a comprehensive program to enable us to expand our workforce and grow our business. We’ve developed a partnership with Scottish digital skills training organization CodeClan which offers focused technology skills training for individuals looking to develop a career in the sector, often retraining after working in another sector. Through this initiative we have recruited 25 highly skilled people into our business in the past three years.

While partnerships like these are helping address some of the existing needs in the digital sector, we must also support the next generation. We need to invest in young people now and engage them in the possibility and opportunities that a technology career offers. We need a fresh and uplifting approach to doing this with programs that really engage young people, particularly females who are significantly underrepresented in the sector.

dressCode, a free schools lunchtime club for girls aged 11-13 which promotes games design and other technology-related applications, and F1 in Schools Ltd offer two prime examples of effective programs. 

Further resources are also required to support young people at colleges and universities to ensure they have the digital skills required for the jobs of the future. The University of Edinburgh’s Digital Skills Framework, which helps students develop their digital skills portfolio, offers a great model for other Higher Education providers to consider. The Critical Friends program, which connects students with individuals from industry to offer insights into changing skills requirements, is another initiative that could be further developed.

Scotland’s economy will only flourish if we are able to develop, attract and retain employes who are qualified and able to fulfill the jobs of the future. That future will be built around digital skills and we must therefore invest now to ensure we grasp the opportunity or risk being left behind. 

Dermot Murray, VP of Ideation at Inoapps

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