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How do we plug the geospatial skills gap in Scotland?

How do we plug the geospatial skills gap in Scotland?

March 2024
Location Data Scotland hosted a fruitful conversation at the AGI Scotland conference on 27th Feb 2024.

A diverse audience of industry, public sector, academia and students met to discuss strategies to tackle the skills gaps across the sector in Scotland at the recent AGI Conference. While Scotland has the highest rate of geospatial jobs in the UK, the demand is primarily concentrated in major cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow. Skills gaps are clear. Individuals keeping up with rapid advancements in technology areas like remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and data management can be challenging and extracting meaningful insights from geospatial data requires strong analytical and data visualisation skills.

Skills Panel at the AGI Conference
From left to right, Ashley Stewart, Lead on Location Data Scotland, Jenni Doonan, Fife College, Alan Corbett, Scottish Government and Nikki Smith, British Geological Survey.

There are also gaps across different industries like environmental management, urban planning, and transportation, which have specific applications for geospatial technologies. Understanding these nuances and creating a range of blended skills to the chosen field and individual industry sectors is crucial.

As a nation, there is limited geospatial training/skills pathways available, currently study is only available at MSc level. And whilst most people ‘fall into geospatial’ as a career rather than choosing it as a path the lack of pathways causes recruitment challenges for the sector. The problem lies at the lower end of the education ladder – schools, colleges and community projects involving young people (Scouts, Youth Clubs etc) and to attract young people into the industry and choose geospatial as a career path, they need to have the knowledge much earlier in the educational journey. Most school aged children have played Pokemon Go but what they don’t realise is that the technology powering that game is geospatial and it opens up a full spectrum of exciting skilled jobs and opportunities. A huge knowledge gap also lies with parents who don’t see geospatial as a career path for their children. Education needs to be given to parents, with clear examples of the power of this technology across different sectors such as financial services, agriculture, space and tourism.

Geomatics Manager at Shell, Rob Dunfey said:

“I am very supportive of initiatives to build geospatial skills. Obviously, there is value for employers such as Shell in being able to recruit geospatial professionals, but more importantly for broader society and the economy. I truly believe that geospatial skills are going to underpin our energy transition to net zero.”

Skills Panel Session at AGI Conference hosted by Location Data Scotland
Picture courtesy of Cameron Easton on behalf of AGI Scotland

Location Data Scotland working in partnership with University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland are calling for industry to help close the skills gaps. More information is needed from industry to define the essential future skills for the geospatial industry at all levels within their organisations, not just individuals at MSc level.

We need your help. Please get involved in the programme so we can help influence future generations to consider geospatial as a career path. If you would like to be part of this movement, register your details here and we’ll be in touch with next steps.

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LDS to host skills panel at the AGI conference

LDS to host skills panel at the AGI conference

February 2024

Developing the skills agenda for the geospatial sector in Scotland is critical to ensuring a pipeline of skilled talent is available to expand the economy and grow the sector. Scotland is currently limited to courses at MSc level; thus, impacting the breadth and diversity of individuals training and coming into the sector.

By bringing together leaders from industry, and academia LDS, in partnership with University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland, has been working over the last 2 years to identify the skills gaps in geospatial across Scotland and has created a unified skills roadmap for the future. Our ambition is to create more jobs using geospatial skills and make Scottish talent more marketable to industry, attracting more companies to set up in Scotland as there will be a cluster of skilled talent, and a dedicated pipeline of highly skilled personnel to support emerging industry requirements. The work on developing the skills roadmap has resulted in a first-of-its-kind pilot programme being initiated with Fife College to develop and test a dedicated geospatial skills course as an introduction into the Geospatial industry.

We are delighted to be hosting a panel at the AGI Scotland conference on 27th February 2024 in Glasgow, bringing together key individuals from across the sector to build on the work already done and explore where we go from here.

Alan Corbett, Head of Geospatial at The Scottish Government

Alan heads up the Scottish Government’s Geographic Information Science and Analysis Team (GI-SAT) within the Digital Directorate. Alan has worked in the Scottish Government’s Geographic Information Service (then SEGIS) since 1998 when the geographic information was first introduced within Government. He has been instrumental in promoting the use of GIS within Government and the Scottish Public sector and is delighted to see how GIS mapping and analysis has developed into an integral part of the decision making process for policy directorates and senior Ministers within the Scottish Government.

Alan’s primary responsibility is giving advice to both internal and external stakeholder on how GI data, systems and analytical processes support strategic decision making across all Scottish Government Directorates and its partner organisations with projects such as the National Resilience and recently the Government Covid Response. He is also responsible for substantive projects or initiatives within the Scottish Government such as the collaboration and procurement of geospatial data for the Scottish Public Sector. Leading on the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) for Scotland, Alan’s role is to ensure it delivers strategic direction, robust timely data and value for money to support all Scottish Public Sector organisations in the delivery of their statutory requirements.

Jenni Doonan, Head of Projects, Faculty of Engineering & Technology, Fife College

Jenni had a 15 year career working in engineering in the European Space Industry before moving into education. She has spent time working at the University of Edinburgh on the Data Education for Schools project as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal before moving to Fife College as Head of Projects in the Faculty of Engineering & Technology. She is responsible for developing innovation projects which give the college the capability and capacity to provide education in new and emerging skills areas.

Nikki Smith, Senior Digital Specialist, British Geological Survey

Nikki is a Senior Digital Specialist within the International division of BGS and has a focus on the design, development and implementation of custom spatial data capture and delivery systems, as well as the design and implementation of digital workflows. Nikki also works extensively with international geological surveys as they aim to increase the use and delivery of their geospatial data, and her work has taken her from Europe to Africa to Central and SE Asia. In addition, Nikki is the Vice-Chair for the Association for Geographic Information – Scotland committee.

Ashley Stewart, Senior Consultant for Optimat and Lead for Location Data Scotland

Ashley co-ordinates and manages Location Data Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Government, to transform services and create new products using geospatial technologies and/or location data in Scotland.

She specialises in data, digital and emerging technologies. Ashley is experienced in techno-market/demand analysis, technology roadmap development, strategy and commercialisation support to private and public sector organisations. Ashely has a BA (hons) Marketing, an MSc IT with Web Development and a PhD in Technology Enhanced Learning and Communities of Practice.

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A focus on skills for Scotland’s expanding geospatial sector

A focus on skills for Scotland’s expanding geospatial sector

February 2024

A recent article in Scottish Business News highlighted the focus on skills for the expanding geospatial sector in Scotland, a direct result of the work carried out during the Location Data Scotland pilot programme.

📌 LDS in partnership with The University of Edinburgh and Association for Geographic Information (AGI) Scotland have created a unified skills roadmap for the geospatial sector.

📣 A first-of-its-kind pilot programme has been initiated with Fife College to develop and test a dedicated geospatial skills course as an introduction into the Geospatial industry.

Rebecca Reid, Skills and Capabilities Policy Lead at Geospatial Commission said:

At the Geospatial Commission, our strategy is to ensure the UK stays ahead of the curve in revolutionising location data and technologies. Location Data Scotland supported by University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland has been instrumental in driving the skills agenda forward, encouraging academia to actively consider this as part of their course curriculum.

This is a great step forward for the geospatial sector in Scotland.

Agri Tech Event

Agri Tech Event

October 2023
Coming this November

Join us on Monday 9th November at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh for an exciting event which seeks to foster collaboration between Space, Agriculture, Forestry and Financial Services, showcasing how space data can support the needs of land based and financial services sectors.

Delivered in partnership with Scottish Enterprise ESA Space Solutions and C2 Network, we will explore the advancements in satellite technology driving the adoption of technology in agriculture.

Click below to find out more and book your place.

How do we address the skills shortfall?

How do we address the skills shortfall?

September 2023
The development of geospatial skills in Scotland is falling behind other countries.

A recent article in Geoconnexion co-authored by Ashley Stewart, Senior Consultant at Optimat and Lead on Location Data Scotland, Bruce Gittings, Senior Lecturer in Geographical Information at University of Edinburgh and Tom Janes from the Improvement Service examines the key findings from the work undertaken to develop the skills roadmap for Scotland.

The article identifies where the skill gaps lie and why it is essential to make changes now, to help the geospatial sector flourish.

You can read the full article here.

Three years of exciting growth for Scotland

Three years of exciting growth for Scotland

March 2023
Scotland has the potential to be centre stage in the growing global geospatial industry.

There are some exciting things happening in this arena in Scotland! Location Data Scotland, working with our partners are focused on accelerating the growth of this nascent industry in Scotland, underpinning public services, helping protect our environment and delivering economic growth through the creation of new products and services using the power of location data. Now in our third year we are seeing our community grow, we’re having conversations with the key decision makers and we’re tackling the skills issue.

Ashley Stewart, Lead on Location Data Scotland talked to Business Insider magazine about how location data can help Scottish businesses to thrive. Read the interview here.

Call for Partners – Scottish Tourism Industry to Trial Geotourist’s Data Dashboard

Call for Partners – Scottish Tourism Industry to Trial Geotourist’s Data Dashboard

February 2023

Scottish Government fund ground-breaking Tourism Data initiative with University of Dundee expert in place branding and Geotourist Analytics.

Geotourist and Dr Keith Dinnie, from the University of Dundee, are undertaking a shared project to identify and assess Geotourist’s economic and social benefits to Scottish tourism – with a call to Scottish Destination Management Organisation and tourism-related organisations to take part. With 20 spaces on offer, each partner will have a Geotourist multimedia trail created – to showcase their destination or brand – with access to Geotourist’s data dashboard to assess and analyse the results. The project runs until May 2023, with results released in a paper authored by Dr Keith Dinnie, an industry report co-authored by Dr Keith Dinnie and Geotourist CEO, Shaon Talukder, and an online event for Scottish tourism industry stakeholders.

Building on existing links between Geotourist and the Scottish tourism industry, the digital storytelling tours will be hosted on the Geotourist platform and generate data bespoke to each of the 20 project partners. Under the supervision of Dr Keith Dinnie, interviews will be conducted with the partners to assess the potential for Geotourist to deliver economic and social benefits to organisations and their destinations.

With significance on a global scale, this project will help Scottish tourism organisations to unlock data sets that have not been measured or previously accessed. The data generated by destinations’ own visitors removes the need for a third-party data provider or the general data pool to provide destination leaders with accessible, actionable insights that reveal which activities are delivering real visitors in and which are losing organisations money. The goal is to help destinations accelerate their economic growth by using data to focus on the activities that their visitors would travel for.

Shaon Talukder, CEO, of Geotourist said:

“We’re thrilled to be working with Dr Keith Dinnie of the University of Dundee to help destination management organisations and other tourism stakeholders across Scotland understand how Geotourist-generated data can support their economic activities and drive visitor engagement. We’re hugely committed to the visitor economy in Scotland and are looking forward to bringing more destinations on board during this research project.”

If you’d like to take part, please contact

A widening GIS skills gap in Scotland

A widening GIS skills gap in Scotland

November 2022
A recent round table hosted by Location Data Scotland, in conjunction with AGI-Scotland and the University of Edinburgh, saw a meeting of minds between industry, Government, academia, and research to consider the geospatial skills gap in Scotland.

Geography is viewed as a social science within the Scottish curriculum; however, this currently downplays the element of GIS and its importance as a source of employment. The ability to link geography with computing science in schools to help put geospatial on the map! Qualifications also need to be considered at all levels – SQA, college and university.

Schools, colleges, and universities are promoting data science as a key career path for students. Huge opportunities are opening up across the world and salaries in this area are leading the charge, however GIS analysis is not considered under the umbrella of data science. If it is to be taken seriously as a career path, awareness raising is required to showcase the opportunities and consideration must be given as to where it is introduced – school or college or university courses – apprenticeships – jobs?

There is a need in geospatial sector to develop a campaign similar to the one launched a few years ago in the Construction sector – GoConstruct – an online resource for anyone looking for a career in the construction and built environment sector. A campaign like this will significantly increase the awareness of geospatial and ultimately the skills base for geospatial in Scotland.

Bruce Gittings, Chair of AGI-Scotland said “We want to put Scotland at the centre of an international geospatial stage so we can attract technology entrepreneurs, promote start-ups and bring research to this country. To do this we need a diverse base of skilled professionals, building on Scotland’s geospatial heritage and a growing data science sector. While our universities lead the world in aspects of this GIS and remote sensing, we need to expose students in schools and colleges to the benefits and potential of this technology, as well as ensuring we have appropriate professional development opportunities for those at all career stages. Having access to industry networks such as Location Data Scotland and AGI Scotland is essential to help address this skill challenge and identify appropriate solutions.”

Have your Say!

A survey was launched in May 2022 and a series of roundtables are underway to consider the findings and discussion a shared vision for tackling the challenges. If you want to join a roundtable, contact

Geospatial Skills Survey

Geospatial Skills Survey

July 2022
Are there skills and recruitment gaps in the geospatial sector?

Geospatial is flourishing with growing interest across a range of sectors and government.  But can we meet the future UK demand for skilled professionals?

Anecdotal evidence indicates that there are skills and recruitment challenges within the sector, however further analysis is necessary to uncover where the gaps lie and how the sector can meet the future UK demand for skilled professionals.

Location Data Scotland are working with the University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland to undertake research with our individual networks across the geospatial landscape to be able to assess this further.

Open SurveyIf you are working across industry, academia, public sector or third sector and have an opinion on this area, we would invite you to complete the survey here.

A round-table workshop involving partners, enablers, providers, potential employers will be held later this year to begin collectively addressing the challenges. The outcomes of the round-table discussions will be fed back to key stakeholders including organisations such as Skills Development Scotland to help shape the skills agenda.

Bruce Gittings, Senior Lecturer in Geographical Information at University of Edinburgh, said:

“This survey represents an important step in a partnership between LDS and AGI Scotland to galvanise action on geospatial training and skills.  We are looking to understand the needs and opportunities for a new and diverse group of people to work in our industry and help build Scotland as an international hub for geospatial talent and business.”