Edinburgh and Glasgow are increasingly competing with London and the south-east as some of the UK’s fastest growing technology clusters, according to a new report.
Statistics published by Tech Nation on behalf of the UK Government’s Digital Economy Council show that, in Edinburgh, 48,118 people are employed in the digital technology sector on salaries which are nearly 15% higher than average.
For those looking for work as an analyst, Edinburgh is acknowledged as the best place to work in the UK, while a Python developer is best off in Glasgow. Demand for Full Stack Developer roles in Edinburgh has also increased; from 32 roles in 2015 to 556 in 2018.
Software developer roles, which are the most-advertised vacancies in Edinburgh, have also seen an increase in demand, while conversely, there has been a decline in demand for project manager, business analyst and test analyst roles in the city.
In Glasgow, meanwhile, software and Java developer positions are the two most in-demand roles within the digital technology sector and have also seen an increase in employer demand. Although project manager and business analyst roles are still some of the most in-demand roles across the digital technology sector, the growth rate of these roles has more than halved in Glasgow.
Similarly, in terms of employer demand, roles as an IT system architect, DevOps engineer and data scientist have more than doubled in their growth rate.
Demand for these roles underlines the varied nature of the landscape within the Scottish technology sector, according to Nikola Kelly, Managing Director of recruitment company Be-IT Resourcing. While Scotland has long maintained its position as a financial services hub, dynamic startups and high-growth companies are fuelling a new era of demand.
“The landscape of employers has changed significantly over the past five years,” she explains. “Financial services are still a number of the real key employers within the sector, having places such as Glasgow and Edinburgh as their cities of choice for their technology centres.
“There is retail banking, investment banking, and we have new offices being built to house more than 2,000 people in Glasgow. There is a lot going on outwith financial services, however, so the offering is different.
“You’ve now got companies, such as Skyscanner – your unicorns of the tech world – who operate in Scotland. The Landscape is varied, but they’re all essentially looking for those same skill sets.”
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Across the UK as a whole, companies of all sizes are hiring staff with “broader business skills”, the report shows. These include consultant, accountant, PR and marketer roles. There is also a strong need for HR and legal professionals across the tech sector, and in some cities, as many as one-third of advertised tech sector jobs are for people in non-tech roles.
This highlights how fast-growing tech companies are rapidly becoming larger organisations that require a broad variety of different roles and professionals, the report deduces. Kelly is keen to emphasise how important these roles are for both the technology sector and the wider Scottish economy.
“Technology is at the core of every business now,” she says. “For example, whisky manufacturing companies are utilising technology hugely to drive their business forward. What that then does is open up opportunities for support roles in, say, administration or clinical work within the actual manufacturing of the products themselves.”
While demand for candidates within the tech sector is largely aimed toward technology roles, Kelly suggests that the focus upon roles within marketing, HR or public relations can often be overlooked; which is helping neither companies nor candidates.
“The demand in the technology sector does sit in the technology roles,” Kelly continues. “But the opportunity is much wider than that and it’s a great message to take to market because sometimes that’s overseen and the focus can largely be on the core tech areas.”
Key ingredients: work-life balance, culture & quality of life
What makes the Scottish technology sector such an attractive industry to come and work in? The country is developing a reputation as a hub of innovation, with burgeoning fintech and data science sectors, strong industry collaboration and a supportive government.
“The work-life balance in Scotland is so much better than London or the US, and it’s that work-life balance you can get here because, culturally, it’s supported,” she says.
“In the past, if you said ‘hey, I work 80 hours a week’ it was a badge of honour. Over here, it’s not anymore. In Scotland, that balance is supported, whereas in the US people are like ‘way to go, buddy, I worked 102 hours’ – here they look at you and think ‘you’re a loser’.”
Although Scotland’s technology sector hasn’t reached the dizzy heights of Silicon Valley and still has a long way to go, Matthews-Clarkson insists that it’s in Scotland’s advantage to be slightly behind the curve in this regard.
“As an American, one of the things I would say is that Edinburgh and Glasgow are behind the ‘Silicon Valley curve’ but, because of that, the opportunity is now. We can learn from the mistakes of others that have gone before us. Sometimes it’s best not to be the bleeding edge, but the group that follows next because you can learn and improve.”
Kelly echoes her comments on the work-life balance available in Scotland, adding that this aspect of the country’s offering, so to speak, is a major differentiator for the sector.
“You can work for a tier-one investment bank in Glasgow and if you want to go hill-walking at the weekend, you have the access and the opportunity to do that. You can also live within a 20-minute commute of the city but still have that really good work-life balance,” she says.
“The choices that a candidate would make if they are looking at, say London or Edinburgh; these are two very different offerings, and I suppose it’s that balance that we can differentiate ourselves with.”