As a new cohort of Generation Z prepares to enter the workforce, new research from Accenture reveals less than a quarter (24%) of young people are confident in securing a technology job, despite almost half (42%) believing there will be more jobs in technology because of COVID-19.
Accenture surveyed 1,000 UK-based 16-21-year-olds on their career aspirations as they finish education for the summer and consider their long-term options.
The research also finds that while nearly half (44%) of young women report they have good digital skills, compared to 40% of young men – the survey indicates this confidence slips when it comes to applying for in-demand technology jobs. Just a fifth (20%) of young women are confident they could secure a technology job compared to nearly a third (29%) of young men.
Shaheen Sayed, Accenture’s Technology lead in the UK & Ireland, said: “If the digital native generation is not turning to technology as a career option, then we have a huge pipeline problem for the technology profession. Young people know technology is completely redefining the world right now – but their lack of confidence in securing a tech job indicates a worrying disconnect between young people, particularly girls, and a changing jobs market.
Tech talent will be needed in all industries, not just in start-ups, and we cannot afford a digital skills deficit. To help dismantle barriers, employers must nurture tech talent from all backgrounds and recruit from a range of disciplines, including the humanities and arts, as well as STEM subjects. The convergence of these disciplines is still underplayed in how we talk about technology and its application.”
Social media is the biggest influencer on career options
When young people are considering a career, they are turning to digital channels for advice. Social media is seen as their top influence (31%), ahead of parents (29%) and teachers (24%).
In a sign that young people are being swayed by jobs in cutting-edge technologies – respondents say they would most likely choose jobs in AI, data analytics, and cybersecurity. More than a quarter (27%) of students gain their understanding of these technologies from TV and film, rather than school (19%).
“It’s striking that young people are influenced more by digital channels than their connections at home and school when choosing their next steps,” added Sayed. “Careers advice will need to meet young people where they are at and paint an engaging picture of the skills required for the economy today. Developing the next generation of tech talent requires more than having coding on the curriculum. Technology moves quickly and subjects must evolve to equip young people with the digital skills that will drive economic growth. Employers are looking for people to work with technologies, like AI, as they tackle global challenges like climate change and become more competitive.”
Tech Career Confidence Suffers from North-South Divide
The research also finds young people’s confidence in their digital skills varies by region. For example, more than half (52%) of Generation Z respondents from the South of England say they are confident in their digital skills – compared to only 38% in the North of England and 37% in Scotland.
On securing a technology job after the pandemic, young people in Northern Ireland report the most confidence (at 35%), followed by Greater London (33%). Young people in Scotland report the least confidence, with only 16% of respondents feeling able to secure a technology job.
Sayed added: “Businesses are adopting technology at speed – all workers will require technology skills and employers want to tap into pools of young talent from every corner of the UK. Businesses must step up to fill the skills gap by forging relationships with schools and academic institutions. We need industry-engaged curriculums to inspire, IT professionals that can lean in to teach, and qualifications that help students become job-ready.”