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Scotland's people are its best economic asset

Leading resourcing expert Nick Price says Scotland's workforce could benefit from exporting skills and attracting home people it needs during the recession.

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You might think that in the worst global economic recession for many years that the international movement of talent isn’t as prominent a priority at this present time but you’d be very wrong.

Right now specialists in a broad range of key sector areas are moving freely around the world knowing there is a major demand for their services, especially from economically ambitious nations.

The competitive war that is currently raging amongst the world’s nations, which shows no signs of slowing down, will only intensify once economies stabilise and the next growth bubble begins its cycle.

This growing economic trend offers a great opportunity to Scotland both in terms of attracting back some of its talent and exporting its expertise to other parts of the world. Scots and their skills are in high demand across the globe, with significant numbers already taking their extensive knowledge in sectors such as energy, medicine and finance to the wealthy Gulf States, as well as Asia and South America. With much of the African continent also sitting on huge growth potential, this opportunity is set to get even bigger for a nation with the expertise and talents of Scotland.

Through my firm’s Edinburgh headquarters we are starting to see some of the tangible benefits of this opportunity, placing financial talent into projects in the Sudan and Botswana, for example. Following the Arab Spring we are also seeing potential opportunities for Scottish expertise in countries like Libya.

Many of these new, fast growing economies that need talent and experience are also willing to pay a premium to get it. While the UK economy slowly lifts itself out of recession and continues, for many sectors, to offer only limited opportunities, many other nations are crying out for our talent.

Skilled people are in demand throughout the world and, from my perspective as a global recruiter, it is clear that most countries suffer from skill shortages in a number of differing sectors, whether that is a developing nation or an existing mature economy.

It often surprises people to hear that emerging global power houses like India, China or even the existing global superpower, the US, have shortages of skills when you consider the sheer size of these nations and their availability of manpower but they do, and in some business areas that shortage is chronic. They may have large populations, but the necessary skills and experience is another matter and while shipping out well educated graduates from universities isn’t a problem for the likes of India or China, finding the people with the depth of knowledge to successfully deliver large projects or manage major systems can be a different story. As a result, even these global giants are faced with importing skills to help their economies grow.

Of course, here in Scotland, we have the same people issues and skills shortages. We are faced with the issue of a significant proportion of our educated people, especially younger graduates, leaving the country due to a perceived lack of opportunity and career advancement. There is also the prospect of a bigger earnings potential with the bright lights and big money of London luring away a lot of our best talent.

We therefore need to get the balance right between exporting the expertise and skills abroad as an economic opportunity and retaining those which are in demand by our indigenous companies. This is the delicate juggling act which another small nation, also on the periphery of Europe, is currently facing. Lithuania is currently managing the difficult balance of encouraging talent to venture out of the country but also attracting in the skills they need for growth. Bearing in mind this small nation of only 3.2 million is barely two decades on from being a communist state, its growth levels are solid and easily outstrip the UK. In May the Bank of Lithuania revised upwards its economic projections, forecasting growth of three per cent in 2012 and 3.5 per cent in 2013.

The work we are doing within our Lithuania operation sums up the flow of people, contributing to the nation’s economic success. Not only are we helping to export some of their indigenous talent across the world, we are also working on attracting talent into the country. We are seeing a strong push now to bring Lithuanian-grown talent home, to utilise the skills they have learned from their International experiences and to play their part in helping to grow the economy of their homeland.

This is a model which Scotland could do well to follow. The double-pronged approach of exporting our skills where they are in demand and also luring back the much-needed Scottish talent that is currently in London or abroad will only benefit Scotland’s economy in the longer term.

Nick Price is CEO of Bright Purple Resourcing.

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