Digital sector set to outpace rest of Scottish economy

Technology is predicted to be the fastest growing sector of the Scottish economy to 2024

The digital sector is predicted to grow twice as fast as the Scottish economy as a whole over the next seven years, according to a new report from Skills Development Scotland and the Digital Technologies Skills Group.

According to the Scotland’s Digital Technologies report technology is forecast to be the fastest growing sector of the Scottish economy to 2024.

This continues the trend of the last few years, with the number of tech businesses in Scotland increasing by 53 per cent between 2010 and 2015 – almost three times as fast as the overall economy.

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By 2015 technology accounted for five per cent of Scottish business and employed two per cent of the workforce.

In 2015 the tech sector contributed £3.9bn – three per cent of total GVA – to the Scottish economy and over 90,000 people were employed as technology professionals across all sectors – a 10 per cent increase in employment from 2015-2016.

Over 60,000 people are employed in tech companies across Scotland, 60 per cent of them working in dedicated tech roles and 40 per cent working in other types of jobs, with Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Lothian the top three employment areas.

Most of the sector is made up of small businesses, with microbusinesses employing less than 10 people account for 95 per cent of technology enterprises.  

However, the research found that a key concern among employers was being able to recruit workers with the right technical skills or experience, with 82 per cent saying this was a concern and 32 per cent describing it as a significant one.

There has been an increase in young people taking computing qualifications, with an eight per cent increase in those passing Computer Science at National, Higher or Advanced Higher, a 20 per cent increase in the number of enrolments on university computer science courses since 2012/13 and a 46 per cent increase in the number starting apprenticeships in the last two years.

The number of student enrolling on computer science college courses has decreased by 11 per cent since 2012/13, although the decrease was mainly at the lower end of the qualifications.

Gender imbalance remains too, with 75 per cent of college students taking computer science courses male.

Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and digital skills at Skills Development Scotland, said: “The digital technologies sector is expanding and is a key contributor to the economic growth and global competitiveness of every sector in Scotland.

“This growth is creating significant job opportunities for skilled workers, particularly young people and other new entrants across a wide range of roles. 

“The Digital Technologies Skills Group is working to broaden the talent pipeline for the future to ensure Scotland can achieve its digital potential.”

Responding to the report’s findings, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “In March this year we published our ambitious refreshed digital strategy which reflects our vision for this area by aiming to create 150,000 digital jobs, ensuring all premises have access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps by 2021, and integrating digital into schools and further education.

“Today’s report is good news and underlines the importance of digital skills to our economic and inclusive growth.  

“We will continue to work across government, with Skills Development Scotland and our other partners, to build on these strong foundations and meet future challenges, including through our STEM strategy which will be finalised later this year.”

Colin Marrs

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