Jessie Soohyun Park, Head of CSR at Samsung UK looks at social mobility in the UK and what’s holding young people back from joining the buoyant tech industry.
Challenges in the UK Job Market
The rapid advances in technology in the UK should mean the future has never looked brighter for young people. However, the job market paints a very different picture, with 93% of UK businesses feeling the pinch when it comes to finding IT workers. So, what’s the outage? And why aren’t more young people funnelling up through education to capitalise on these top jobs? Especially when the youth of today are the most tech-savvy generation this world has ever seen. Born digitally native, reliant on technology to connect, entertain, and learn.
The answer is, sadly, more nuanced than we might realise. Because, despite being hyper-adept at working their way around a smartphone and expertly creating content for social media platforms, young people don’t seem to be taking the next step and looking towards a career in technology. This is perpetuated by the fact that 50% of young people perceive the technology sector to be ‘competitive’, with 28% believing it’s only for people ‘good at maths and science’. Age old stereotypes can be hard to unseat.
And that’s before we get to the shocking impact that social mobility is having on the most disadvantaged young people, ‘screening’ out talent from applying for high paid roles in sectors like technology because often, they can’t be what they can’t see. For example, our research showed that one fifth of young people (20%) wouldn’t think about applying for a job if they didn’t know anyone in that career – trapping young people in the social mobility gap, which we know is at its worst level for 50 years.
And this is affecting women even more than men. Although more companies are addressing the gender gap in technology, women still only account for around 26% of people working in IT. Whilst this is an improvement from the figure of 19% in 2019, more needs to be done to get to a place of gender balance, and this is a situation that won’t improve without meaningful action.
Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow
It’s why programmes like Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow exist. To prove that young people from all walks of life can come up with ideas that can make a difference in the world through the use of technology. Whether it’s tackling some of young people’s biggest issues in education, sustainability, DE&I or health & wellbeing, Solve for Tomorrow is a leveller when it comes to education and innovation and offers an opportunity for those disenfranchised by more traditional routes into entrepreneurship.
But we can’t do this alone, and our partnerships with organisations like InnovateHer and the Social Mobility Foundation are critical to achieving our mission as we focus on engaging more young people that aren’t currently in education, employment or training. Samsung is also a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, continuing our commitment to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusivity.
Hiring Practices and Education
One important thing companies can do is to consider hiring practices. Recently, the idea of a true beginner in the corporate world seems to be fading into the past. While the growth of apprenticeships are a welcome move in the right direction, according to non-profit Generation, nearly a third of unsuccessful applicants can’t meet university degree-level requirements. With added demands for behavioural skills such as communication and teamwork, the chance for young people to get into these jobs is further impacted, creating a belief that tech roles are ‘competitive’.
At Samsung, we’re working really hard to create in-roads into technology that can be accessed by all. In addition to our Emerging Talent Programme, which includes apprenticeships for young people, our Samsung Pioneers ED&I platform has spearheaded not only mandatory inclusive hiring training and conscious inclusion training, but it’s created pathways to the interview stage through mentorship programmes in schools. We’ve also worked with Internet Matters to create the Online Together Project, which helps young people develop critical thinking skills and to encourage a positive and inclusive online culture. Furthermore, we recognise the need to engage young people from an earlier age which is why our Solve for Tomorrow: Next Gen programme focuses on supporting 11-15 year olds to build their critical thinking skills as they start to design their future careers.
All of this tells us that the role of education and the education system can’t be underestimated. We need to realise that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach and while there will always be a need for traditional subjects and developing cognitive skills, we also have to develop alternative and innovative educational programs. We need to open doors to a wide range of careers and build on the ubiquitous nature of technology in young people’s lives.
Empowering Young Minds
Young people need to be shown that these careers are out there and proactively given the skills and opportunities to access them; because we know that nearly half (47%) of young people believe they can innovate or contribute ideas to problem solving if they had the right support around them (e.g. mentoring, or paid learning). Ultimately, we must realise that the world of work is changing and our education system must change with it. This should be at the heart of tackling social inequalities.
The UK is jostling to become a global tech hub, playing a pivotal role in generation-defining technologies such as AI. However, this cannot just be for the privileged and we need everyone’s ideas to be counted to make a meaningful impact. We cannot have a society where people are left behind without even knowing it, allowing ‘invisible screening’ to take place which restricts the full potential of the youth workforce and closes off careers in technology for certain communities. We all owe it to the next generation to remove the barriers that are divisive and restrictive in helping our young people, our future workforce, realise their full, unleashed potential.
To find out more, or to apply for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition, please visit here. Entries close on 18th December 2023.
By Jessie Soohyun Park, Head of CSR at Samsung UK
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