The ONS today released the latest unemployment figures, for the UK as a whole and also for Scotland. Overall, UK unemployment fell by 75,000, to 1.46 million in May-July 2017. This represents a rate of 4.3%; the lowest since 1975. The stats also showed that average weekly earnings in the public sector were up 1.5% over the last 12 months, while those working in the private sector enjoyed a slightly better increase of 2.2%.
Within Scotland, unemployment fell by 7,000, to 3.8%. This is the lowest rate in the UK, but, as anyone who has read our blog over the last few years well knows, the headline figures, whilst undoubtedly extremely encouraging, do hide regional and sectoral variations. Within our sphere of IT, while demand is still powering ahead, quality candidates are increasingly hard to find.
The background to this, as we’ve noted for some time, is both simple and complex. That’s not a get-out-of-jail oxymoron: the reality is that we can point to some obvious causes, specifically the lack of computing science students coming through our schools and universities, the seemingly perverse lack of interest by girls and women in STEM subjects generally, and, of course, the impact of the Brexit vote (as described by Gareth in his interview on BBC Scotland today). The causes may, on the face of it, be easily identified, but the solutions are far less straightforward.
We have expressed our exasperation, ad nauseam, with the lack of computing teachers in our secondary schools, but, at the same time, we’ve noted that you have to be particularly dedicated to teach IT when you could make three times as much money working in the private sector.
The ongoing issue of the lack of female participation in IT (one aspect of which will soon be considered – next week – when we publish the results of our research into sexism in the industry) has no simple solution, would that it did. Brexit is mired in a political fog of accusation and counter-accusation, but it is clear that it will have an impact for, at the very least, a few years before we see whether it turns out to have been an inspired move or an act of lunacy. In the meantime, the uncertainty as to which of those two extremes (or more likely a fluctuating wave of good and bad news) will prevail, has certainly started to impact on the labour market in a number of areas, not just IT.
Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT