SCOTLAND’S tech industry has a lot to be proud of. From the development of new space technology to climate tech and quantum computing, Scotland remains at the leading edge.
Despite storms of Covid-19 and Brexit, 2022 should be a year of continued growth domestically and in key international markets. Yet we mustn’t be complacent. That success will bring significant challenges as international competition grows.
This year, we were commissioned by Scottish Enterprise to deliver a ground-breaking analysis of the climate tech sector in Scotland, which mapped out our strength in the sector for the first time.
COP26 also showcased Scotland and highlighted the role of technology as part of the climate change solution. It has scope to become of significant importance in the years ahead as a key contributor to wider collaboration.
Because of our rich pool of talent and cluster ecosystem, international companies continue to invest in and establish bases in Scotland. However, thanks to the adoption of home working, many of our talented workforce have been lured by high salaries from abroad, no longer restricted by the need to move across the globe. We need to ensure that our digital economy provides high quality jobs within Scotland.
Scotland’s skill base at all levels is of critical concern as we enter 2022. We need to replace talent that is being lost and enthuse a new generation of young people to enter the tech industry. A pipeline of talent flowing from schools, colleges and universities is needed – and fast.
A key issue is a talent gap amongst senior developers. We need to retain or replace our top talent in this highly competitive market by looking at innovative models that can accelerate development of mid and lower-level developers. We also need to review how we support new talent into the industry.
To do this, we also need more computer science teachers, and we need them right now – not in five years’ time.
At ScotlandIS we are already looking at ways to fill the teaching gap, as a range of measures are needed to urgently increase teacher numbers.
ScotlandIS has been at the forefront of the skills revolution. We developed CodeClan and Digital Xtra Fund with industry and Skills Development Scotland. We’ve adopted and promoted Foundation Apprenticeships. We’ve engaged industry partners in our Digital Critical Friends programme to support schools in the West of Scotland and expanding this initiative to the South of Scotland. Yet more needs to be done.
We must ensure that our digitally talented workforce can thrive within Scotland. We are working closely with local colleges and the new Enterprise Agency from the Highlands & Islands and central belt to the south of Scotland to create a thriving digital technology sector.
Next year will bring opportunities for growth. But if we don’t look ahead and invest in the skills and development of our lower to mid-tier talent, the digital technology sector will be in danger of losing momentum.
Karen Meechan is CEO of ScotlandIS