Retraining for a career in tech; who should pay?

By Gordon Kaye.

With all the recent studies, reports and news stories about Scotland’s and in particularly, Edinburgh’s booming tech sector, how much thought has been given to how and who is going to fill all the jobs available in this growing industry?

From a recruitment point of the view, companies across the country are looking for skilled technology people to fill crucial roles within their businesses, but there aren’t enough people to fill these roles and keep up with the demand from employers. For years there has been a disproportionate figure between the amount of people who have a computing qualification and relevant experience, and the number of technology roles available.

This gap has only been left to grow. When 85% of the jobs of 2030 haven’t even been created yet[1], how do we prepare for the future? What should we be telling the kids of today? Will the age-old question of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ now become redundant? What is for sure, more needs to be done to support people who want to learn or retrain into a career in tech.

It’s not all about fixing computer systems; it is a broad industry from gaming to cyber security. The types of skills we need are changing, and there is more demand for tech skills such as software development, web design, app building, cyber security, machine learning, data science and virtual and augmented reality. But how do people from a non-IT background learn these skills?

There are courses out there to help people retrain such as CodeClan but the course fee may be out of reach for many. You also need to go 4 months or more without pay.  We recently helped a student start CodeClan’s 16-week software development course who came from a low-income household and was unable to pay for the fees.

Of course, this is just one person retraining for a career in tech, but we wanted to help an intelligent, motivated individual retrain through this scholarship. I believe there should be more opportunities made available for those who have the skills but lack the financial means or come from a disadvantaged background to change careers. Perhaps more businesses might see the advantage in supporting people to retrain to help close the digital skills gap.

While we can help our current workforce to retrain, we need to reinvent the way we teach computing and technology in school. From an early age, there needs to be more focus on STEM subjects in schools and less stigma surrounding computing. More girls need to be encouraged to choose STEM subjects at high school.  Kids these days don’t even realise how much technology they use and how learning key skills such as programming can open up a world of exciting opportunities. The Government has to do more to promote the tech industry in Scotland. People are going to help fuel the growth in digital technology so more investment is needed to address these skills.

The tech industry is an attractive industry to work in. It is a chance to be a part of creating disruptive technologies.  We need the next generation to have the skills necessary to do the jobs of the future and become the highly trained individuals that help drive forward Scotland’s digital tech sector.

Gordon Kaye is co-founder of Cathcart Associates.

[1] Dell Technologies’ Realize 2030 report