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Mixed picture for tech recruitment in Scotland

Accenture analysed data from social network LinkedIn and found the UK-wide fall was driven by a 64% decrease in the number of data analysts being recruited

Vacancies for digital technology jobs plummeted by 52% across the UK during the second half of last year [2019] as Brexit uncertainty hit, but Scotland fared better, with Edinburgh down 42% and Glasgow 36% lower, according to figures from management consultancy Accenture.

Trade body ScotlandIS questioned the figures though, pointing to data from Skills Development Scotland that suggested the thirst for programmers and other workers was still rising. It called for Scottish Government funding to continue to help fill the digital skills gap.

Accenture analysed data from social network LinkedIn and found the UK-wide fall was driven by a 64% decrease in the number of data analysts being recruited. Zahra Bahrololoumi, head of Accenture Technology in the UK and Ireland, suggested companies were holding back on investment for big projects, which was having a knock-on effect for hiring.

“The second half of 2019 was one of uncertainty for the UK and businesses practices seem to have reflected that,” she said. “However, we would expect that number to bounce back throughout this year as companies look to innovate and grow through new technology initiatives.”

In Scotland, the company noted a rise in the number of vacancies for roles relating to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, with demand up 44% in Glasgow and 33% in Edinburgh. The Scottish capital retained its ranking as the UK’s third-largest technology hub.

Michelle Hawkins, joint managing director of Accenture in Scotland, said: “With strong roots of innovation led by academia and home to ‘unicorn’ companies, Edinburgh and Glasgow are creating diverse job opportunities across a range of technologies. And yet that position will be put under threat if organisations consider pulling back on hiring.”

Les Bayne, the firm’s other joint managing director north of the border, added: “There is a great deal to be confident about. Edinburgh is defined as a home to the digital native. 20-40 year olds now account for 35% of the population, the highest in Europe.

“The University of Edinburgh is also recognised as a world leader in informatics and computer science, and Glasgow has been proposed as one of the UK’s four hubs for quantum computing. Whether a start-up or large enterprise, the digital talent is available.”

But Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive at ScotlandIS, said: “We welcome the new research into the technology job market in the UK by Accenture, however feel that this update may not give the full picture for Scotland and does not tally with what our members are telling us. Certainly, research conducted by Skills Development Scotland shows an increase of more than 200 roles advertised each year across Scotland, which sets our national digital skills gap at 13,200 roles.

“ScotlandIS is working in partnership with the Scottish Government, academia and industry to meet this increasing demand. We as an industry are hard at work on a range of initiatives that focus on attracting new talent to the sector as well as upskilling existing talent – from the recently announced ScotlandIS NPA in the Fundamentals of Computing that will bring new talent to the industry through to the Digital Xtra Fund embedding digital skills at an early age with support for extracurricular activities or CodeClan, which works with career changers to transform them into developers and data scientists.

“The Scottish Government, through Skills Development Scotland, is funding a raft of new projects with the Digital Start Fund. This £1 million fund covers training in software development and cyber security for those with lower incomes to help them gain the skills they need to go further to filling the skills gap in our industry.

“As the Accenture reports points out, there are talent hotspots in the UK – of which Scotland is one of the brightest – for this to continue, the full industry effort that is already underway to help close the skills gap and provide our technology industry with the talent it needs to fill roles, must continue.”


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