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Buoyant IT sector threatened by skills shortages, says ScotlandIS

The warning comes as ScotlandIS publishes its annual members’ survey, the findings of which show a buoyant industry, with 84% of businesses expecting sales to increase in the next 12 months. But with three quarters of companies planning to recruit in 2014, and the number of graduates staying level, the shortage of new talent could stop the industry reaching its full potential.

The IT and digital technologies sector, which includes software development, telecoms and IT services, employs 70,000 people and contributes in excess of &pound3 billion GVA (gross value added), accounting for 3% of the Scottish economy1.

Polly Purvis, Executive Director of ScotlandIS, says: “Once again our findings show that the IT and digital technologies industry is booming in Scotland. Our members are overwhelmingly positive about the coming year and they have ambitious plans for growth but, at the same time, they are struggling to fill vacancies. We cannot afford to be complacent if we are to ensure the future success of this important industry.

She continues: “We have wholeheartedly welcomed initiatives such as the Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s Digital Technologies and ICT Industries2 but our results show that this problem is growing increasingly acute. That’s why securing the talent of the future for the digital technologies industry is a priority for us. We work with schools to promote the many and wide-ranging career opportunities available in the sector and we are collaborating with businesses across the industry to help resolve this critical shortage of skilled people.”

While businesses of all sizes reported plans to recruit, the demand for different types of skills varies. Software engineering talent is the biggest requirement for small companies while mid-sized companies are as likely to be seeking staff with commercial and business support skills and project management capabilities. Meanwhile, the biggest demand among larger companies is in infrastructure support and management, again followed by project management. 

The survey also looked at international opportunities and provides a positive comparison with previous years. Exporting is on the increase, with 58% of businesses reporting that they currently export, compared with only 44% of respondents in 2012. A further 17% said that they are planning to export to international markets in future.

Purvis says: “We are pleased to see that Scottish technology businesses are thriving and making plans to export further afield. We have a world class IT and digital technologies industry and, as long as we nurture young talent, we can look forward to a bright future.”

Gordon Brown, CEO of 9-20 Recruitment, sponsors of the survey, said: “We can definitely echo the sentiment of the soaring technology market. In the last six months we have doubled the number of both recruits and placements, which has largely been due to the new IT start-ups in Scotland, the re-engineering and upgrading of IT systems by larger companies and a rise in the numbers of spin-outs and tech businesses being formed. Existing companies are also seeing a surge in business with record-breaking figures being posted in 2013.

“It’s promising to see the graduate demand is still there, however this area continues to be one of contention as we have recently voiced concern over the lack of Scottish talent coming through at this level. IT education has been said to be as much as 5-10 years out of date, and is not as widely supported as it should be which is continuing to let down our students, and subsequently our companies’ bottom line performance."


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