Scotland’s digital sector optimistic for 2017, according to ScotlandIS survey
The Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2017 found over 80 per cent of digital businesses expected sales to grow this year
Polly Purvis, Chief Executive, ScotlandIS - Image credit: ScotlandIS
Scotland’s digital sector is optimistic for the future, according to a new national survey.
However, the research also suggested Brexit-related concerns mean companies will be looking for more home-grown talent in future.
The Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2017, produced by digital trade body ScotlandIS, found that 82 per cent of digital businesses in Scotland expect sales to increase in 2017.
Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they have a very optimistic or optimistic view for the year ahead.
This follows strong growth in 2016, with seven out of ten companies reporting an increase in sales last year, some by more than 50 per cent year on year.
Employment in the digital sector is also expected to increase, with 78 per cent of firms predicting they will hire more staff in 2017, compared with 66 percent in 2016.
This rises to 84 per cent for small businesses when taken on their own.
The effect of Brexit may be seen in recruitment patterns, with nearly three-quarters of firms expecting to recruit the majority of new staff from within Scotland, compared with 60 per cent in 2016, while the percentage of businesses expecting to recruit from outside the UK has dropped from 21 per cent to nine per cent.
The skills shortage remains an issue and ScotlandIS has welcomed the Scottish Government’s £36m Digital Growth Fund that was announced last week help companies to meet the costs of digital skills training.
Software and web development are the most in demand skills, but commercial, business support and project management skills are also required by more than two thirds of companies.
Demand for experienced staff outstripped the need for graduates for the first time since 2013, although the survey found the need for university graduates continues to be a priority for firms of all sizes.
The research also shows more companies are embracing Modern Apprenticeships as a route into the sector, with 38 per cent of respondents reporting that they are likely to recruit apprentices in 2017, up from 29 per cent in 2016.
Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said the results show the “confidence and resilience” of the sector despite uncertainties in the political environment.
She said: “This is great news not just for our sector, but also for the economy as a whole.
“The digital technologies industry generates over £5 billion in GVA for Scotland every year and is becoming more and more important in our increasingly digital world.”
She added: “Our survey shows that more companies are looking to Scotland to recruit new employees.
“This is likely to be a sign of Brexit related concerns and the decreasing attractiveness of the UK for international talent.
“Initiatives like CodeClan, which enables people to retrain and transition into new careers in the digital technologies sector, and the new apprenticeship frameworks are helping Scotland to meet the increasing demand for home-grown talent.
“However, further industry investment in skills is now needed more than ever, particularly around work-based learning and up-skilling the existing workforce.”
This was echoed by Gordon Brown, ScotlandIS board member and head of technology and digital at Nine Twenty Technology, who said: “There are some huge opportunities for Scottish businesses to take responsibility for change.
“As business leaders we need to promote our sector by partnering with schools and universities to showcase the opportunities and career paths that are available for the next generation to pursue.”
Over 90,000 people now work in digital technologies roles, up from 84,000 last year.
The ScotlandIS hiring forecast figures are in line with new research commissioned by the Digital Technologies Skills Group, which found that there are an estimated 12,800 digital technologies job opportunities available every year and the average salary has increased to £37,500.
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