Software Engineers (Demand)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 6 June 2013.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to meet the increasing demand for software engineers suggested by recent surveys by ScotlandIS and e-skills UK. (S4O-02216)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The information technology and telecoms sector is important, as it directly contributes £3 billion to the Scottish economy. In its own right, the sector employs around 56,000 individuals and, with the enabling technology supporting and driving growth in other areas, the workforce involved totals around 73,000.

Skills Development Scotland is working with industry and public sector partners to finalise a skills investment plan for information and communication technology, based on robust evidence, to quantify the workforce needed in future. The skills investment plan will also identify any actions required, for example to support the increasing demand for software engineers and to increase the size and diversity of the talent pool, given that women are consistently underrepresented as employees and account for 17 per cent of the workforce. The action plan will be developed further through a process of consultation with industry stakeholders.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

In his answer, the cabinet secretary clearly stated the substantial numbers of people employed in the IT industry in Scotland. We know that up to 65 per cent of companies surveyed in Scotland are reporting increasing demand for graduates in the industry, with a forecast 45,000 new entrants needed over the next five years.

Will the cabinet secretary consider what additional measures might be taken, for example in schools, to raise the profile of a career in software engineering? Average salaries in the industry are around £35,000, with contractors commanding about three times that amount. Will he agree to meet me and ScotlandIS to see how we can widen that discussion with our universities and colleges?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I meet ScotlandIS fairly frequently, but I would be delighted to have a meeting with Mr Coffey and ScotlandIS. I take this opportunity to compliment ScotlandIS on the consistent, positive and productive way in which it advances arguments on the industry’s behalf.

There are significant opportunities in the economy for software engineers. This morning, I had the privilege of opening Plexus’s new design and manufacturing facility at the Pyramids business park in West Lothian, which is a tremendous example of high-skill activity in the Scottish economy. Educational institutions in Scotland are very much focused on producing the necessary skill levels to support the industry. I entirely accept Mr Coffey’s point that our school system needs to be involved in the process. In schools, we particularly need to take action to change the gender balance among those who enter the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and the engineering profession. The company that I mentioned is one important example.