Hamilton Forth’s Joshua Moreland looks at Scotland’s most in-demand tech jobs and the challenges of attracting top tech talent.
For some time now, Scotland has occupied a position as a sensible, strategic, cost-appropriate location of choice for a number of technology businesses. As an English-speaking nation, benefiting from the presence of several world-renowned universities and with a geographic position that is within a few hours travel from NE America and continental Europe, many firms have selected Scotland as an important hub for their technology operations.
The Scottish Government, in partnership with a host of other funding organisations, has also made great strides in attracting talent to work in Scotland with the provision of a host of grants and business support options which can be easily applied for.
As we move into 2022, still feeling the dramatic economic and social impact of a global pandemic, it is worth looking at what some of the most sought-after technical skills are in Scotland and how accessible talent is to businesses.
According to Accenture’s ‘UK Tech Talent Tracker’ – Scotland’s tech sector is growing at a faster pace than the rest of the UK – with a rise in job listings over the last six months of 25% compared to the rest of the UK comparing at only 10%. Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, have seen some of the most dramatic growth of new tech jobs adding to the growing belief system that the flexibility and latitude now shown by organisations (partly as a result of Covid-19) has started to erode at the wall of the North-South tech divide.
Top Five Tech Skills/Job Families
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Rapid development in AI and machine learning (ML) helps businesses to capture, process and analyse data more effectively. Scotland already possesses a high concentration of data-rich industries such as finance, oil and gas, engineering, and life sciences.
The City Region Deal is a £661m initiative spearheaded by Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University to propel Scotland to become Europe’s leader in the education, employment and opportunity in data-driven disciplines. AI and ML jobs were up by 84% year-on-year with a whole range of businesses trying to procure top talent across data, AI and ML skillsets.
Cloud computing offers individuals and organisations the availability of data storage and computing power resources without direct active management by the user. It tends to allow companies to reduce (or completely avoid) traditional IT infrastructure costs as well as optimising the speed and performance of applications hosted in a virtual environment. A cost, however, which is incurred will be to host the estate – for example via a provider such as Microsoft or Amazon.
Cloud roles in Scotland are truly at an all-time high. In Edinburgh alone, there are currently 1407 Cloud Engineer roles advertised on LinkedIn with a further 2179 roles advertised with slightly different job titles such as ‘Site Reliability Engineer’ or ‘DevOps Engineer’.
Coders, developers, programmers – whatever you want to call them, this job family has remained one of the most consistently sought-after in Scotland for a number of years. As organisations either create applications from scratch or refactor existing software – the need to add highly-skilled software professionals to their team remains a constant task for hundreds of firms across the country.
The software engineering community is one of the most developed across Scotland – with a number of events, awards, hackathons etc all hosted by organisations such as ScotlandIS and DIGIT proving to be very popular mechanisms of socially staying engaged. This year’s median salary (according to IT Jobs Watch) is over £50,000 for software professionals in Scotland – and also worth pointing out how many independent contractors continue to work in this field with an average daily rate being charged out surpassing £450 per day.
The demand for Blockchain and cryptography talent in Scotland has grown by 125% since last year. However, this figure is slightly misleading as the Blockchain sector could still be considered a ‘developing sphere’ where previously there has not existed roles using the ‘Blockchain’ title.
As businesses become aware of the need to protect data, secure payment gateways, and protect against additional threats such as cyber attacks and data leaks, Blockchain roles have crept into emergence in the Scottish market – particularly amongst financial services firms and consultancies.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA seeks to create efficiency and modernisation helping organisations to remove repetitive tasks by deploying software robots to launch and run software. Many industries have benefited from the introduction of intelligent automation solutions and Scotland has started to see the chutes of growth in the RPA world with organisations typically choosing from one of three major vendors of RPA software products.
Talent Accessibility Across In-Demand Tech Skills
A 2021 article in the Guardian stated that a million people had left the UK since Brexit and Covid-19 first impacted. It is estimated that this figure may even have doubled by now. A number of those who have left our shores did indeed work in the technology sector.
In Scotland, there is a feeling in the tech scene that the market is a little chaotic and barren. Jobs postings are far out-stripping candidate supply, candidates themselves seem to be more expensive to procure (salary expectations, perks required, agency fees), and the notion of loyalty has been questioned by a number of academics and professionals – many of whom have added to the rhetoric of ‘The Great Resignation’ by suggesting that tech business could be yet to experience the most turbulent impact of leavers from their organisation.
However, there are a number of silver linings to businesses who are trying to add top talent in 2022. Scotland has seen the success of code academies and ‘boot-camp’ style retraining houses. There is also a new fund from Skills Development Scotland – the Digital Start Fund – which helps those looking to cover training in software engineering, cyber and other digital fields.
A number of recruitment organisations have also experienced successful periods of business activity throughout a widely uncertain period. As businesses have struggled to position themselves as attractive to potential job-seekers, many recruitment organisations and managed service suppliers have worked tirelessly to represent their clients in the market – tapping into networks of job-seekers not actively searching via traditional channels.
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