Scottish technology trouble-spot needs addressing

I recently met the (Scottish) managing director of a company which is doing world-leading, app-based work in flow measurement technology, having developed an app which provides medical practitioners with a precise, measured answer, via a smartphone, to the often unspecific results of medical testing processes, including pregnancy tests.

The Edinburgh-based business is attracting attention from customers in Japan and California.

“What great things our young Scots’ software engineers are achieving”, I marvelled.

“Well not exactly”, said the MD, a Glasgow state school educated PhD: “We have twelve software engineers, three are Indian, one is Italian, four are Chinese, one is Portuguese, one is Canadian, one English and one Scottish. And we couldn’t have achieved what we have without them”.

“One Scot out of twelve?”, I said shaking my head.

“I’m afraid so”, said the MD, whose name is Neil, “We can’t speak to enough Scots’ software engineers who have the skills we need for this sort of work”.

“But surely our youngsters have as much ability and drive as others?”, I said.

“I don’t doubt that”, said Neil, “but we aren’t seeing them coming through and we, and many other Scottish software companies like us, are frustrated by this situation”.

“Why so?”, I said.

“Who knows?”, said Neil, “but I have a strong impression that Scotland’s brightest young people, as well as their parents, have not yet begun to realise that software engineering, not medicine, law or accountancy, will define the future. The opportunities for bright young Scots in IT and its many branches, are global, sustainable and unlimited.”

“And has our education system got a handle on these opportunities?” I asked.

“A good question”, said Neil. “IT education is 5 to 10 years out of date in most of our Scottish state sector schools; there are signs that this may be changing, but its inability to grasp future trends has failed an entire generation of school students."

“If we couldn’t hire from overseas, I would not be running a successful business today”, he said.

Gordon Brown is MD of 9-20 Recruitment which specialises in IT recruitment.

Issued by Michael Crawford at BPM (UK), 0141 353 1515.

Date: March 2014