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Following recent growth announcements in Scotland from financial services firms such as JPMorgan, Barclays, Tesco Bank and TSB, there has been a sharper focus on upskilling and reskilling. 

Barry Connolly, Chair of the Financial Services Advisory Board’s (FiSAB) Skills & Talent Group, shares his perspective on how Scotland’s skills and learning system can meet this challenge.   

The scale and depth of talent in Scotland’s financial services industry is globally recognised with our experience making us an attractive option for businesses looking to invest.

That’s why it’s vital that we continue to embrace the transformation the industry is experiencing. The growth of fintech and the creation of Fintech Scotland has helped develop an ecosystem for innovators and disruptors that is persuading businesses that Scotland is the place to be.

It’s a competitive advantage that we need to exploit as fully as possible. Digital transformation means that labour market dynamics are changing rapidly, but rather than looking merely to maintain our position in this sector, we need a new level of collaboration across industry, government and the education sector that will capitalise on our strengths.

The two traditional pathways into careers in the sector have been joining straight from school, or straight from university. We've never really leveraged the role that the Further Education sector has in supporting people for a career in financial services. 

Traditional routes still matter, but they're not enough for the demands and the pace at which we need people to learn. We can't afford for everybody to take two years or four years to develop a new set of skills. We need to innovate with Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Further Education to take people who have some inherent skills and then build their confidence so they can enter financial services and launch a career.

Similarly, there needs to be a recognition that people who are mid-career are often committed financially. Their ability to step away from work for prolonged periods of time to undertake qualifications can be limited. Learning providers have an opportunity to support both the traditional methods, but also new ways which allow greater reskilling. 

"We need to innovate with Skills Development Scotland and Further Education to take people who have some inherent skills and then build their confidence so they can enter financial services and launch a career."

Barry Connolly

The new six-week ‘Fast Track into Financial Services’ work readiness course being delivered in Glasgow and Edinburgh for people keen to launch a career in the sector is a good example of this.

It’s making financial services feel more accessible to more people. We need those kinds of innovative and dynamic learning options so people can gain a foothold in financial services and start not only a career but also a lifelong learning journey.

Scotland is extremely lucky to have FiSAB which is bringing people together at the highest level to face into these opportunities and challenges.  The sector also benefits from the role Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) plays in engaging senior leaders across all sectors in the importance of skills and talent.

Thanks to work by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Developing the Young Workforce, the sector is getting the message about career opportunities out to every high school in Scotland via the new Unified Schools Programme, which was developed by SFE member firms and provides work experience opportunities for S4 to S6 pupils.

We are also working together to simplify and develop the apprenticeship offering so that we're making the most of Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships.

I’m also encouraged by the 400-strong SFE Young Professionals network who have committed to supporting and inspiring the next generation entering our industry.  

These interventions represent a great start, but there is a long way to go to make sure the system is ready for the challenges and opportunities facing Scotland’s economy.

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