News & Blog

Read the latest business news, blogs and thought leadership articles from our members, as well as updates on the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce's work in the city.

News & Blog

Scottish workers call for upskilling support as impact of technology bites

Posted: 9th September 2019

Scottish workers have indicated a strong appetite to learn new skills in the face of increasing automation, but many are not being given the chance to adapt their skillsets, new research from PwC has found.

The Upskilling Hopes and Fears research reveals that, despite a willingness to learn new skills, workers are not being offered sufficient upskilling opportunities by their employers, which is leading to mistrust and fear of automation and technology.

The survey found that 80% of Scottish workers would take the opportunity to better understand or use technology if they were given the option by their employer. However, currently only half of workers say their employer is giving them the opportunity to improve their digital skills outside their normal duties, with just 14% saying that they are given many opportunities.

This lack of support may explain why two-thirds (65%) of Scottish workers fear that automation is putting their jobs at risk. This is ahead of 58% across the whole of the UK, which is itself the most likely out of the populations surveyed to believe that automation presents more risks than opportunities – a direct contrast to adults in India and China (even adjusting for cultural differences in responses), where seven in ten think automation presents more opportunities than risks.

Of the countries surveyed, UK workers – followed by their Australian counterparts – were found to be offered the fewest opportunities to upskill and, consequently, only half feel well equipped to use new technologies entering the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the markets who are best at adopting upskilling are also the markets who feel most well equipped in using new technologies entering their workplace: India (91%), South Africa (80%) and China (78%).

In Scotland just 52% said they felt equipped to use new technologies that were being rolled out in their workplace. However, most feel ready and willing to embrace these changes. More than half (55%) said they were ready to learn new skills or completely re-train in order to improve future employability. Previous PwC research projected that there would be a net gain of 15,000 jobs by 2037 through automation, which means this willingness to re-train will help future job prospects as automation becomes more prevalent.

Claire Reid, PwC Scotland Regional Leader, said:

“The disparity between the skills people have and the skills they will need in a digital future is a major challenge not just here in Scotland, but across the world. With research showing that more jobs will be created than displaced by technologies such as automation, it is vitally important that people learn new skills, and understand more about technology in order to adapt to this new world as seamlessly as possible.

“This will take a combined effort from government, business and academia. All organisations need to seize on this appetite to learn new skills. At PwC we are ensuring our staff of the future are ready for these challenges through the launch of initiatives like our Data Science Graduate Apprenticeship, which is into its second year, and our recent partnership with digital skills academy CodeClan.

“Organisations like Skills Development Scotland have done a huge amount of work, such as the £1m investment in software development and cyber security training in Scotland announced earlier this year. Collectively, we must all make the transition to a digital world as smooth as possible, and giving our workers the skills to adapt it a crucial part of this.”

The positive attitudes towards technological change is illustrated by almost half (44%) of Scottish workers saying they were hopeful technology would enable them to become more productive, while 41% said they were hopeful technology would help them find solutions to problems, and 29% said they were hopeful it would allow them to do more interesting work.

And workers in Scotland showed they are prepared to do a number of things if they believed their job was at risk of being replaced by automation, including: take part time training (77%), take full time training (47%), start their own business (48%), accept a lower level position in another company or industry (40%), and accept a position with a lower salary than their previous job (27%).

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
Read more here