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

The Scotsman - - The Scotsman 200 -

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

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