Young people learn tech from TV, not school

Consulting firm Accenture conducted a survey of young people – Gen Z or those born in the 90s – and found that movies and social media have a greater influence on their understanding of working in the technology sector than school.

Young people in the UK are less likely to get their information about tech careers from school and teachers than from social media, TV shows and films, according to research.

Social media ranks first as a source of information on career aspirations (31%), ahead of parents by a small margin (29%) and teachers by a larger margin (24%). Gen Z is more likely to learn about a future in tech from TV and movies (27%) than from school (19%).

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Is that a good or bad thing, considering shows like Mr Robot, which actually contained plausible hacker stories? It’s even prompted antivirus companies to promote defenses against what the show’s main character, a hacker named Elliot, could realistically do. At the same time, high school students are avoiding ICT courses in the UK, reducing the supply of much-needed skills to the workforce in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Cybersecurity is just one part of the tech industry and job opportunities. Children might be interested in science, economics, marketing, and purer technology, which might make learning a specific programming language a good idea, like Python, MATLAB, or C.

Is it worth learning the old-school but still fast C programming language, for example? Or learn JavaScript or Python, which in Python’s case is easier to learn and has the benefit of pre-compiled libraries, like NumPy, that help make it faster for specific science tasks?

Some students turn to inexpensive single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi to learn about future careers in technology, exposing them to programming languages, networking protocols, security, and the basic fact that computers have need for human interfaces, such as graphical, touch/gesture, voice, a classic keyboard or a mouse.

Accenture surveyed 1,000 UK-based young people aged 16-21 about their career aspirations and long-term options. It revealed that 44% of young women said they had good digital skills, but only 40% of young men said they had.

Despite this, less than a quarter of young people are confident about getting a tech job.

Shaheen Sayed, Chief Technology Officer for Accenture UK and Ireland, said: “If the digital native generation doesn’t turn to tech as a career option, we have a huge pipeline problem for the tech profession. young people know that tech is completely redefining the world right now – but their lack of confidence in getting a tech job points to a worrying disconnect between young people, especially girls, and a job market mutating.”

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Respondents who were interested in tech jobs said they would most likely choose jobs in AI, data analytics, and cybersecurity. Which makes sense to some degree, given that these are the top three topics in online tech media right now.

“It is striking that young people are influenced more by digital channels than by their relationships at home and at school when choosing their next steps,” Sayed said.

“Career advice will need to meet young people where they are and paint an attractive picture of the skills required for today’s economy. Developing the next generation of tech talent requires more than having coding in the curriculum Technology is changing rapidly and subjects need to change 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.

Donald E. Patel