Digital Skills Gap
The Digital Skills Debate: Edinburgh Highlights
11 November 2022 • 4 min read
Following debates in London, Reading and Manchester, we took the conversation north of the country - to Edinburgh. Pitched as the UK’s next big technology hub, Edinburgh is home to innovative start-ups, global tech firms and an incredible pool of talent. But despite its recent boom, it’s far from immune to the digital skills gap.
We invited a panel of experts to talk about how it’s affecting the city and the wider industry: featuring Non-Executive Director Vikki Macleod, Forrit CEO Peter Proud and AND Digital's Edinburgh Club Executives; Dave Livesey and Fiona Burton.
So with a standing-room only audience; here’s how that conversation went.
The key issues for Scotland's digital skills
We need to articulate ourselves better
The tech industry needs to articulate itself better. We talk a lot about enigmatic subjects like Cloud and AI, compounding the misconception that tech is all “technical”. In truth, digital is a journey that requires a whole host of skills, from definition and discovery through to delivery.
Dave Livesey said: “Digital is an inclusive and collaborative environment that completely depends on the balance of skills across a team. We need to take away the words and barriers we create as an industry, and we need to sell the reality in to schools before the techy stereotypes set in.”
Businesses have a critical disconnect
We talk about poor articulation of tech outside the industry, but there’s a huge language barrier within it too. Business leaders aren’t speaking the language of knowledge workers, and as a result they’re missing huge pieces that make up the big picture. Having worked with a huge range of organisations in her 17 years in advertising, Fiona Burton said:
“The best companies I’ve worked with have incredible C-Suite who genuinely listen and collaborate with people across their business. They care what’s going on on the ground, and make the effort to fully understand it. Meanwhile the best boardrooms I’ve been in have a chair who mines for conflict, brings it to the surface, and creates a psychologically safe environment to tackle it from all levels.”
The skills we need are evolving
There’s currently a huge demand for Experience Design that wasn’t there five to ten years ago, leaving the industry to play catch up on delivering with a limited talent pool. In the next five to ten years, there’ll be new innovation and demand for a whole new set of skills. It’s critical that businesses foster a culture of continuous learning and curiosity, to evolve their people in tandem with industry innovation.
Tech isn’t the tool, your people are
There’s still the misconception that new tech could be the silver bullet to your business challenges. In reality, tech is only as good as what you do with it. It’s an enabler to great things, but it’s not a tool.
Vikki MacLeod said: “Tech is just syntax. You can teach people how to use a tool, but encouraging those human skills to actually make the most of that tool is what’s most important.”
In a similar vein, Peter Proud added: “Coding is effectively writing a story to tell someone to do something. It takes the human skills to dream up that story, tech just brings it to life.”
Adopt an upskilling mindset
Fear often gets in the way when it comes to learning something new, and we see this particularly at senior level. Often people would rather pass a task on to someone else than risk being out of their comfort zone in the learning curve. In truth, the best work happens when people are on that edge.
Peter Proud’s theory is that 60% of a role should be in the comfort of capability, and 40% should be in the discomfort zone, continuously improving and learning. Businesses need to normalise the discomfort zone and put the upskilling mindset at the core of their growth plans.
We need to take advantage of Scotland's ecosystem
While the audience concluded that the government aren’t doing enough to tackle the skills gap, the panel believe that Scotland is actually ahead of the curve.
Vikki Macleod said: “There’s a whole ecosystem here in Scotland that people don’t know about. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are available in funding and grants for digital innovation and training. I really urge businesses and individuals to look into organisations like Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to see what’s available to them.”
Our #DigitalSkillsDebate events have concluded for 2022, but you can still join the conversation on social, or head to our content hub to discover more opinions on our skills gap research.