Posted September 12, 2017 | Tackling the Skills Gap Series | No Comments »

[Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap – Gary Higgins at Arnold Clark

As innovation continues to accelerate throughout both SME’s and established businesses, there are well-founded concerns that the distinct lack of skills combined with an ineffective education system could endanger the UK’s growth. Tech City UK recently estimated that “Britain will need an extra 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential.” On top of these figures, Scotland IS have found that 73% of business will seek to hire digital talent locally this year, a 15% increase on last year’s numbers.

With the demand for industry skills only increasing, it’s important to find out what measures are being put in place by key players within the Scottish technology industry to tackle this. Over the following weeks, we will be talking to organisations at the centre of this issue; finding out what they think about the lack of skills within their industry, what they are doing to help, and how the industry can contribute to increasing the number of people in skilled work.

We’re taking the conversation to Gary Higgins, Head of Digital at Arnold Clark in Part VI – our final instalment of Tackling the Skills Gap. Gary discusses his role within Arnold Clark, the effect the digital skills gap has had over the past few years, how he thinks the industry can tackle the gap and what he thinks about the rise in apprenticeships recently.

[Interview] Tackling the Skills Gap - Gary Higgins at Arnold Clark

Hi Gary, thanks for chatting with us today! Can you tell us a bit your role within Arnold Clark, please?

“I head up digitally focused teams across multiple departments, including Digital Marketing and Product Development. My role involves analysing how we can use digital to improve the end-to-end customer experience, and trying to innovate at a rapid rate in order to meet the constantly changing needs of the retail consumer. This could be anything from driving traffic to our online channels, to improving the in-store retail experience.”

As Head of Digital, how would you say the skills gap has affected you over the recent years?

“The big shift towards using agile in how we develop software has really highlighted a skills gap in this area. Creating teams who are set up to deliver value to our customers at speed means finding candidates who have a set of skills to match, alongside the skills you would need in a more traditional software developer or project manager.

This means a huge commitment to training and development. We have fortnightly “10% time”. This is one day a fortnight set aside for our product teams to undertake personal projects or skills development. We usually find that time spent here actually benefits the business long-term – some really innovative solutions to real business problems have been created in this time.

We also have annual conference budgets for staff, so we’ve had people travelling to Germany, Spain and Romania to name just a few for conferences over the last year or so. This really helps morale and brings learnings back from different cultures.”

Has the skills gap affected your recruitment process?

 “Definitely. Our recruitment process is very thorough and we can get quite picky about who we bring in! We’re having to be even stricter to ensure the quality of person we recruit remains high. Cultural fit is always number one for us though when looking for someone to join the team – we can teach a lot of the other stuff, as long as their people skills are strong, we see the right mix of talent and humility and they have the right desire to succeed.

We’ve also really improved our graduate intake process, and took on 6 graduate software developers from across Scotland in 2017. We want to increase this in 2018.”

What do you think the industry can do to tackle the skills gap?

“I think Scotland should be really proud of how we’re meeting the skills gap head on. We have some of the best universities in the world producing some great talent, our tech industry in the four big cities continues to grow, and initiatives such as SDS and ScotlandIS are championing what it means to work in digital in Scotland. I hope Arnold Clark can continue to play a role in developing digital talent and helping young people build careers in the Scottish tech industry.”

In parts I-IV of this blog, we have been talking to key figures within academia and the apprenticeship sector; finding out about the rise of apprenticeships specifically introduced to tackle the skills gap which offer a variety of qualifications and skill levels within both digital and engineering. What is your view on the rising popularity of these apprenticeships as a way of tackling the skills gap?

“I think they’re fantastic. We’ve recently partnered with UWS to participate in an apprenticeship scheme for software development students. The digital landscape is changing at such a rapid rate that we need to be constantly thinking about how we can create the next generation of digital professionals to ensure Scotland remains at the forefront of tech. This, in turn, attracts more talent from the rest of the UK and beyond to our universities. All in all, I think the outlook is very positive.”


Missed earlier posts in this series? Find them here.

Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us or call us on 0141 332 4422.

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