The Scotsman

March of technology has left us on a slippery slope

All firms need innovative employees to keep up with modern pace of change, says Fiona Godsman


Recently, I visited the former Fairfield Shipbuildi­ng & Engineerin­g Offices in Govan. These famous Clyde-based companies traded throughout the world and provided livelihood­s for generation­s of local people.

The history of Govan tells of a rapid growth in population, from 9,000 in the 1860s to more than 90,000 in the 1910s – a tenfold increase in just 50 years. The people who lived through the rapid growth of that once massive industry probably never anticipate­d how quickly it could all collapse.

If the rate of growth in the industrial West of Scotland seemed remarkable in its day, it’s nothing to what parts of the world are experienci­ng now. For example, Shenzhen in China, which in 1955 had a population smaller than that of Govan 100 years before, has experience­d a growth rate of more than 6000 per cent in just 30 years and now that one city has a population twice the size of Scotland.

Fifty years ago Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, stated that computer power would double every two years and today the pace of change in technology still shows no signs of slowing. Just as the pace of technologi­cal change has contribute­d to the decline of traditiona­l jobs, it has also created many opportunit­ies. People are now employed in roles and in industries that simply did not exist just ten years ago, and can expect to experience several career changes in their working lives.

So how can we prepare our students here in Scotland for a future that we cannot predict, in a world of rapid change? Traditiona­l education provides an essential foundation of technical knowledge, but with such a fast pace of change that is not enough.

According to the World Economic Forum, the skills we need today are entreprene­urial; complex problem solving abilities, creativity, cognitive flexibilit­y. Our young people need to learn new ways to work, and we need to support them by giving them the opportunit­ies to shape the future. For some that will be by starting their own businesses, but for many it will be using these skills and outlook to change the way all organisati­ons work.

Let’s go back to where this article started, to the Fairfield Shipyard offices. The local community refused to let the heritage of the area die. They took over the buildings left behind from the old industries and created something new.

Smart young people working in small, creative high technology businesses moved in and are reinvigora­ting the space that fell into decline at the end of the last century. They are located in the former drawing offices where their talented predecesso­rs produced the blueprints for the great ships that crossed the world.

It’s the start of the fourth industrial revolution, new businesses with a global outlook, taking advantage of new technologi­es and transformi­ng and regenerati­ng the area.

These collaborat­ive technology hubs are starting up all over the country. Some businesses will stay small; some will grow into the large employers of the future. All will need innovative employees in order to keep up with the modern pace of change.

It’s a new way of working, and it’s working well. ● Fiona Godsman. CEO, Scottish Institute for Enterprise.

 ??  ?? 0 Fairfield’s shipyard in Govan once launched many fine vessels
0 Fairfield’s shipyard in Govan once launched many fine vessels

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