Older teens and younger 20-somethings are interested in technology careers, but many of them think it’s already “too late” for them to look into a career in the sector, according to research by Finsbury Glover Hering.
The consultancy polled more than 2,000 people aged between 16 and 26 across the UK, US, Germany and China, and found that 46% of those in the UK said they were unable to study tech-related subjects at school, so thought it was too late to follow such a path.
Sophie Scott, global technology lead at Finsbury Glover Hering, said: “It’s worrying, against the backdrop of a growing skills gap, that so many young people view a career in technology as out of reach. The sector’s greatest challenge lies in reshaping perceptions and enhancing accessibility.
“Companies need to help young people break down these self-limiting beliefs before they become barriers. The sector also has an opportunity to align much more closely with young people’s priorities – which are as much pragmatic as they are values-led – to attract new talent.”
There have been efforts over the past seven years to increase the amount of digital and technology training young people have access to, both to prepare them for the future workplace and to encourage more into tech roles to address the UK’s growing skills gap.
But many are still put off – for those who feel a job in tech is now unattainable for them, almost half said this was because a tech career requires too much in the way of technical skills and training, according to Finsbury Glover Hering’s research.
Diversity was also cited as a huge challenge for young people when it comes to a tech role – 43% said tech careers are only available to people from more wealthy socio-economic backgrounds, and 35% said tech is predominantly white and there is a lack of racial diversity in the sector.
Almost 55% of young people in the UK are concerned about the lack of diversity in the tech sector, with those who would consider a career in the sector claiming it is too male-dominated.
This concern is even greater among those who have not considered a career in the tech industry, and Finsbury Glover Hering says this lack of diversity is deterring young people from considering tech-related careers.
More than 60% of people aged between 16 and 26 in the UK were very interested in the idea of a tech job, but this interest was greater among young men, or young people who have taken part in higher education.
Looking at the gender split among young people inside and outside the technology industry, Finsbury Glover Hering found that 10% of those asked were already working in the sector, with a split of 13% men and 8% women.
But the numbers were not so close when looking at those outside the sector, with the 37% of young people who had considered a tech career having a gender split of 41% men and only 31% women, and 46% of women saying they would not consider a job in technology at all.
That is hardly surprising – as well as a skills gap, the UK’s tech sector lacks female talent, with recent research from BCS finding that women make up around 17% of IT specialists, a number that has remained about the same for the past five years.
Finsbury Glover Hering found several reasons why young people are interested in the tech sector, including the prospect of high salaries, excitement about innovation, and the opportunity to “give back” to society. Young people’s main priorities lie in both salary and in workplace culture.
Health tech was in the most popular sub-sector of technology that young people are interested in entering, with 66% saying they would be interested to work for a company that is using technology to improve healthcare, closely followed by interest in companies that provide platforms for people to gain access to goods and services, and social media.
Over the years, the technology sector has earned a reputation for poor internal culture, and young people are put off by the sector’s reputation for long working hours – the pandemic especially meant firms had higher expectations of technology workers to keep operations up and running. More than half of young people in the UK want to ensure their careers provide a good amount of work-life balance.
Societal payback is a big driver for those wanting to enter the tech sector, and 66% of young people in the UK said they think the sector’s impact on the world is “more good than bad”.
But young women, and young people from Scotland, are more inclined to believe that the tech sector’s values do not align with their own, and 47% of young people in the UK believe the sector’s values do not align with society’s.
Just over 60% said they think the tech sector currently has too much power and influence in today’s society, and 56% said technologies such as automation will cause mass job losses.