From education to employment

Signals for success: young people and technology

Young people and technology – the wired generation has a high speed connection to the information superhighway. Adept at tweeting, texting and typing, this new igeneration has embraced new technology and all it has to offer, surely?

Actually, no. New research seems to show that, far from being born with chips in their head, young people in England and Northern Ireland are actually below average in terms of their digital literacy. So what does this mean for their future, and ours?

Importantly, this research did not test their use of IT applications and tools, but rather how well they use those IT tools for problem solving activities. So it appears that those aged 16-24 are able to use technology, but in very specific ways, often not related to work. (Parents of teenagers may be able to relate to this!) And this may be hindering their prospects when it comes to using technology for work related activities.

This is important because job roles are changing. Increasingly, businesses are automating services and using online tools to meet their business needs. This means applying IT knowledge to access, process and evaluate information is in demand. And for young people seeking work, it’s clear that they need to align what they can do with what businesses need.

But it’s not all bad news. Findings from one of the largest UK employer surveys shows that of those employers in England and Northern Ireland that hired a young person, most found them well prepared for work. If they weren’t, a lack of work experience and required skills were the main reasons cited. In a classic catch-22 situation, the only cure for this is a job.

As Director of Talent and Resources at Crossrail, developing and attracting talent is key to what I do. I work with young people every day, and know they have lots to offer. So we need to address these surprising findings, by opening up more opportunities for young people to apply their IT skills through work placements and internships. Young people are connected to digital technologies, but let’s help them send the right signals in the labour market.

Valerie Todd is director of talent and resources at Crossrail, and a commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)


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