Sara Dodd

Sara Dodd

How Scottish companies can address the digital skills gap.

By Sara Dodd, CodeClan’s head of quality and curriculum.

Scotland’s tech sector is based around a hugely dynamic industry with fantastic examples of innovative start-ups growing to become public-limited companies (PLC) and global organisations, plus world-class research and development contributing to the astonishing developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Supported by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International (SDI), the tech sector has become a key driver in the economic development of Scotland, and with strong links to the Silicon Valley innovators and global leaders, it has become one of our brightest stars, showcasing a natural aptitude for creativity, innovation and collaboration.

This vibrant sector is outpacing others in terms of growth, and growth needs fuel. Fuel means people with the right skills, but recent statistics indicate that while there are around 12,800 digital technology job vacancies every year, there simply aren’t enough people to fill them, most critically in the area of software development, though the majority of jobs now demand a minimum digital skillset.

How can Scottish businesses across all sectors ensure that they have the workforce in place to capitalise on these tectonic shifts?

New ways of learning
Some of our major universities have been key to supporting this growth, producing talented computing science graduates that have become the envy of the world – and the pick of the crop when new tech companies choose to establish a base in Scotland.

DigitalHuman resources denizens of the big tech companies scour universities and colleges for the brightest and the best, snapping them up as soon as they complete their degrees. New university and college courses have been developed to give non-computer science students key technical knowledge and skills to combine with their degree in the burgeoning sectors of fintech, biotech and the creative industries.

ScotlandIS and Skills Development Scotland have also played a key role in helping to establish CodeClan, the digital skills academy that enables career changers to move into new tech roles after completing the immersive 16-week course in software and web application development.

One of the key attributes of the success of CodeClan’s graduates is that they also possess a huge range of desirable, transferable skills from having worked in previous occupations. We have seen people from all walks of life transition into new tech roles who are now being promoted to key positions that combine their experience and expertise with the knowledge and skills of contemporary technologies.

Upskilling existing staff
With software developers in high demand, some companies have looked at re-training as a critical way to keep and develop staff. Offering them the opportunity to undertake the 16-week professional software development course can give them the skills to transition to new roles within the company, whilst retaining their valuable knowledge and understanding of the business.

Upskilling also has huge advantages. Providing focused training in specific topics can add value to an employee’s skillset. This is true for both tech newbies and experienced staff across sectors as varied as legal and financial teams to teachers and educators.

We have seen huge interest in our three-day “Coding for Professionals” course, which gives teams a taste of what’s happening in the tech world, from understanding how the internet and application programming interfaces (APIs) work to new services in the Cloud. Delivered in tandem with learning the practical skills to code a simple application end-to-end, this can be an inspiring exploration of the value of gaining new tech skills.

By recruiting new staff and in re-training and upskilling existing staff, all sectors can prepare their teams to capitalise on the huge potential that technology has to offer in growing and expanding Scotland’s future.