Enhancing the next generation’s technology skills has the potential to “super-charge” social mobility and economic growth, according to a new report by BT and Accenture.
It reveals those with high digital skills earn an average of £10,000 more than their less technologically literate peers annually, and that 51% of young people hope to be in the most advanced bracket within five years. If these ambitions are realised, and the skills are matched with suitable jobs, the report suggest the implied increase in salaries could add around £11bn to UK GDP by 2022.
The report identifies two categories of people with the highest digital skills, including an ‘expert’ group that can perform tasks such as advanced coding, and a ‘creative’ one which can use technology for new innovations. It also highlights two less advanced groups that range in being able to use advanced settings in Excel, to only being able to carry out basic tasks like sending emails.
It was found that people’s socio-economic background can have a profound effect on what group they fall into, with young people in London 50% more likely to aspire to the creative or expert categories than the national average. 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 young people who parents are in the bottom two levels.
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% more likely to receive encouragement from friends and family to build their tech skills, and 17% more likely to report having had enough computer science training at school, compared to their female counterparts.
BT and Accenture’s study also stated that without concerted effort from businesses and the government, the tech revolution could lead to ‘double disadvantage’ which would create a barrier for young people from less privileged backgrounds as they enter the workforce.
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 activities they love.
3) Ensure that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are given access to skills-development programs and to real workplace experiences of the future.
4) Invest in up-skill and cross-skill programs for existing employees to ensure that those most at risk from automation aren’t left behind.