A new report from BT and Accenture has found that boosting the next generation’s technology skills can super-charge social mobility and economic growth — but warns that without concerted effort from business, government and civil society, the tech revolution could create a barrier for young, less-privileged people as they enter the workforce.
Based on new primary data gathered from 4,000 young people (aged 16 to 24) and 1,000 Gen Xers (aged 41 to 50) across the U.K., the study — Tech Know-How: The New Way to Get Ahead — explores how people use technology today and examines both present and future expectations. It reveals that individuals with higher levels of tech know-how earn more as their career progresses, with a ‘tech literacy wage premium’ of £10,000 per year. The implied salary increase from these tech-savvy individuals could add approximately £11 billion to U.K. GDP by 2022.
However, many U.K. individuals could miss out on that potential, as attitudes to tech differ by socio-economic background. Young people whose parents have higher levels of education are 26 percent more likely to see themselves as ‘expert’ or ‘creative’ users of tech in the next five years. Salary expectations also increase with parental education level. Young people whose parents fall into the top two education levels expect to earn salaries that are 19 percent higher than the bottom two.
The report also highlights a stark gender divide. Girls and young women could be left behind, with challenges starting at home and continuing in the classroom. Young men are 46 percent more likely to receive encouragement from friends and family to build their tech skills, and 17 percent more likely to report having had enough computer science training at school, compared to their female counterparts.
To help address the issue of poor tech literacy skills, the report makes four recommendations:
1. Make computational thinking – the building blocks of digital learning – the thread that runs through the school curriculum and teacher training.
2. Show young people – and those who influence them – the role tech plays in the things they love.
3. Ensure young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are given access to skills development and real experience of the future workplace.
4. Invest in existing employees’ skills to ensure those at most risk from automation aren’t left behind.
BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson said: “Giving young people the skills and confidence to thrive in the workplaces of the future, is the only way to address social mobility and secure long-term prosperity. Tackling this challenge will require the co-ordinated efforts of both the public and private sectors. Without that, we risk stifling future growth and leaving people behind. But we need to move beyond talking and now act, to ensure that young people fully understand the importance of technology and how it will shape their lives and careers.”
“We know that technology offers tremendous opportunity for economic growth, and technology skills provide a path for individuals to personally grow and flourish,” said Olly Benzecry, chairman and managing director for Accenture in the U.K. and Ireland. “Our task is to improve technology skills in the U.K. — and to make them available in an inclusive way so that all can benefit. At Accenture, we are particularly focused on these ‘skills to succeed,’ but we need to partner with the private sector, the government, the education system and parents to ensure that the opportunity is fully realised.”