Exception's CEO and Institute of Directors Fellow, Scott McGlinchey, discussed why Scottish tech must take advantage of its lead and catch the global eye with industry commentator, Bill Magee.

“Let’s tell the world about what’s terrific about technology in Scotland – and while we’re at it, let’s get our next generation of workers enthused about the possibilities the sector offers” – Scott McGlinchey, CEO at Exception.

Surely the timing is right – if not significantly overdue – for Scotland to gather together its abundance of tech offerings and reboot them as one ‘digital centre-of-excellence’ to catch the global eye?

What we urgently need is a dose of good old-fashioned leadership dedicated towards accomplishing the task.

Some years ago I asked in a previous IoD column – amid all the Scots independence/Devomax/pro-Unionist discussions (yes, we’re there again folks) – if enough consideration was being given to what standard of technological infrastructure Scotland has in place to make its mark in the international marketplace.

For want of a better description, I  labelled such a single entity as Scotland’s ‘TechSuperHub’. So, as the competition gets more, not less, fierce, how are we doing at the moment?

Scott McGlinchey, an IoD Fellow, took time out from his senior role as chief executive of Exception, Scotland’s largest indigenous market-leading Digital Solutions specialist, to conduct an annual Scottish digital audit, casting his eye over whether we have developed a more cost-effective, energy­-efficient greener tech offering yet.

Scott notes that, of late, there has been much talk about the urgent need to develop the next generation of tech leaders and avoid viewing the world, as Napier University Cyber Academy’s Professor Bill Buchanan puts it, through rose-tinted glasses.

He fully backs the position that there remains a great deal of work required for the tech sector, especially when it comes to Scotland’s education system producing sufficient numbers of students with the right science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and allied IT skills moving forwards.

Scott also agrees with the Scottish Government’s Sarah Davidson, Director ­General for organisational development and operations, that we can take a leading role in tech with women at the forefront, and Scotland’s status as a major tech hub can only be judged through a global lens.

The country has numerous IT strengths to be proud of, but in this digital age, fundamental questions persist concerning the nature of work together with relationships and society at large, and this remains a challenge in terms of becoming and remaining a major tech hub.

For leadership to represent what has been described as ‘meaningful and sustained action’, there has to be a much closer and tighter collaborative effort all round, with full recognition of talent and a broadening out of skills both within and across organisations irrespective of their size.

The top and bottom of our current dilemma is we’re not attracting enough young people into STEM subjects. Professor Buchanan suggests this might be due to them being put off by the ‘engineering’ tag.

So we have to become better at explaining directly to students how STEM education overall is so vital from an early age, potentially opening the door to exciting and creative careers. Literacy, numeracy and overall confidence are significantly improved as such courses provide the specialist knowledge and skills necessary to work in the ever-increasing STEM sectors of the economy. There are more such courses than ever to choose to study at school and college, reflecting the wide range of careers on offer.

It is up to those who assume a leadership role to urge, inspire if you like, young people to think more creatively about what subjects and career options they plan to pursue.

Here, Young Scot is in a pivotal position. As the national youth charity for 11-26-year-olds providing information and opportunities for young people all over Scotland, it is proving vital towards guiding the digital generation.

Scott McGlinchey contends this particular organisation is key towards supporting the further development of STEM-based careers, but he warns that we must move with more agility together with greater local investment.

Over the coming months the charity plans to work with key delivery partners to identify even more opportunities to maximise the impact of both universal and bespoke services for young Scots.
As a small nation we certainly possess the essential dynamic to bring to life a new national enlightenment.

It’s time for Scotland to take the lead.

By Bill Magee

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