Concern over Scottish technology skills gap

Austen at FH

Scotland’s pioneering technology sector could be left trailing behind other countries in the race to develop artificial intelligence, software and cybersecurity because of an acute skills shortage, a leading tech expert fears.

Businessman Austen Clark believes that competition to recruit from Scotland’s talent pool is so great that firms need to invest in school leavers and young people by offering apprenticeships and training.

Mr Clark, managing director of Aberdeenshire-based Clark Integrated Technologies, said that without nurturing the next generation of talent, Scottish firms will not be able to grow their expertise in the fastest-growing technology disciplines.

Mr Clark has highlighted how it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit people with the right skills in the technology sector. He warned that without the right employees, Scottish technology firms that want to grow expertise in areas such as cybersecurity, cloud, software development, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things will find themselves stifled.

Mr Clark commented: “It’s no revelation to say that recruitment has been a challenge to our sector for some time. Our own recent experience in filling posts has showed a lack of suitable candidates out there.

“Without addressing the lack of skilled workers that available, it could seriously impact on the growth of home-grown technology companies.”

There might not be any quick fix solutions to plugging the skills gap, but Mr Clark believes that there is hope. The problem has been recognised by the government and industry bodies and they are actively seeking solutions and schemes which may assist.

With secondary schools across Scotland on the countdown to the summer holidays, and leavers set to embark on their studies or first jobs, they should be mindful of opportunities that are available at technology companies.

But it’s not just young people that need to be encouraged into the industry – for those considering a change in direction or retraining, it’s an industry that offers stability and progression opportunities.

Mr Clark added: “As an SME in a rural area, we’ve gone down the road of recruiting school leavers and encouraging young blood and raw talent into the industry.

“By offering modern apprenticeships this gives young people living in our region the chance to gain on-the-job training in an industry that has lots of opportunities for the future.

“This has worked well for us with a number of apprentices progressing into other roles within Clark IT.

“Across the industry we need to fill the jobs that are integral to the field with people who have the right technical knowledge and expertise.

“We are leading increasingly digital lives, in both work and play, and will continue to do so in the future as AI plays a greater part in work and life operations. We need the right technical expertise within the industry to support this.

“This is particularly true here in Scotland, if the Scottish Government’s aspiration to be a leading nation in cyber resilience is to be achieved.”

The Scottish Government’s cyber resilience strategy is a framework for action that supports the development of being able to prepare for, respond to and recover from cyberattacks. It seeks to move Scotland as a whole towards greater cyber resilience.