Scotland is well placed to tackle the challenges posed by an era of rapid technological development, the Business Minister said today.
Jamie Hepburn MSP told a conference at Edinburgh Napier that there was a determination not to repeat the mistakes of a past where too many people and communities were left behind by economic and industrial change.
And he stressed that becoming a fairer society was the key to becoming a more prosperous country.
The Next Generation of Business conference, at the University’s Craiglockhart-based Business School, turned the spotlight on the skills needed to drive economic growth in the 21s century.
A series of expert speakers focused on key issues like cyber currencies, changing expectations on business transparency and the evolving workforce of the future.
Delegates including managers and researchers from a range of sectors also discussed how management education programmes must respond in order to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in the modern world.
In his keynote address, Mr Hepburn, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, said achieving inclusive growth in a world of technological change that threatened to displace many workers could prove to be the great question of our times.
He said: “The rapid advance of new technologies and business models threatens to exacerbate already wide inequalities.”
Mr Hepburn added: “We should perhaps remind ourselves that the past record of adjusting to economic and industrial change in Scotland isn’t exactly impressive – too many people and communities have been left behind; denied the tools to reskill and access emerging job opportunities.
“This Scottish Government is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past. I will always argue that we could do so much more effectively as an independent nation. But even with the policy agenda we have established under current devolved arrangements, I believe the Scottish Government is in a good place to realise the opportunities and address the economic and social challenges arising from rapid technological change.”
He outlined initiatives taken to boost productivity and reduce inequality like the Scottish Business Pledge – now made by more than 650 businesses, the Fair Work Action Plan and, unveiled last month, Scotland’s Future Skills Action Plan.
Mr Hepburn said: “Our vision for Scotland can be set out very simply – Scotland will become a more productive and more prosperous country, if we become a fairer society.” He added: “We must ensure that sufficient numbers of quality jobs are generated to meet the needs and aspirations of all our citizens.”
Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Brian Howieson discussed the changing skillset demanded of managers by industry, a topic which also formed the basis of a question and answer session with business leaders including Kat Brogan of Mercat Tours, Paul Atkinson of Par Equity, and Robert Crawford, a past CEO of Scottish Enterprise.
Professor Howieson, Head of Management Area at The Business School, said: “Building on the existing skill set of critical thinking, reflective analysis and emotional intelligence, the next generation of Business Management graduates will also need to demonstrate anticipatory leadership, be comfortable with absorbing and interpreting data at speed, and basing decisions on evidence that they can defend under the increasing customer-driven scrutiny of organisations across all sectors, whether on issues of sustainability, ethics or purpose.”