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High hopes Gen Z will close the digital skills gap – but young people are in a confidence crisis

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Three-quarters of tech leaders think Gen Z will solve the digital skills shortage (72%), with an even higher number (77%) believing these ‘digital-natives’ have the best ability of any generation. However, while half of Gen Z have a career in tech or firm plans to pursue one in the next five years (46%), they have low confidence in their digital abilities (@CWJobsUK).

According to CWJobs’ ‘Digital Generation’ report – which surveyed 500 IT decision makers and 542 16–24-year-olds – only a quarter (24%) of young people believe their age is an advantage when applying for tech jobs. Most (56%) believe that a career in the sector seems complicated, with young women 12% more likely to think so than young men.

Beyond IT support

A widespread lack of confidence may stem from young people being unsure what a career in tech entails. In fact, tech leaders believe young tech talent is most needed in Cloud (28%), Artificial intelligence (AI) (27%) and Coding (26%). With more than a half (55%) of young people wanting more advice from school about the tech sector, and 57% seeking advice from businesses, the findings suggest a more comprehensive support and training network is needed.

The report also highlights limited support for young people after accepting a job and entering the workforce. Currently, over half of businesses (51%) say they don’t have the resources to offer Gen Z employees tech training, whilst a third (32%) of tech leaders say they wouldn’t know how to train them up properly even if the resources were available.

Dominic Harvey, Director at CWJobs, comments:

“Almost half of Generation Z could be in the UK’s digital workforce in the next five years – which is brilliant news for the sector.  But if businesses, universities, and schools don’t work together to develop their confidence, we risk alienating them before they have even started. Our advice to tech leaders who want to make the most of emerging talent is to engage Gen Z directly to reinforce the value they can deliver, communicate the importance of soft skills over hard skills, and invest in relevant training.”

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Nurturing young tech talent

In addition to training and development opportunities, young people are looking for a career with purpose. More than two thirds (69%) said it was important that carbon net zero ambitions were part of a company’s values and agreed mission statements for racial diversity (65%), gender diversity (63%), neurodiversity (62%) and LGBTQ+ representation (60%) were also important.

The findings also suggest that businesses could be doing more to support Gen Z’s pastoral needs. Mental health support is in the top five perks young people are looking for, but does not feature in the top five perks actually being offered by employers.

Universal Quantum is just one example of a UK company taking action to nurture young talent and close the digital skills gap.

Samantha Edmondson, Head of Talent, said:

“The digital skills shortage is a major issue for the industry – especially in specialised areas like quantum computing. However, Gen Z want to make a difference more than any generation that came before them and can bring a great deal of enthusiasm and flair for technology to the workforce.

“The dual challenge for businesses when turning to Gen Z is identifying the right talent and ensuring they offer an attractive proposition. At Universal Quantum, we recognise that, so we ensure our quantum interns have complete autonomy over their projects, which will one day lead to a quantum computer that can solve the biggest issues in medicine, science, and engineering. It’s also important to offer the best package possible with training an essential part of it and pastoral support, whether it’s through coaching, flexible working or team socials – all things necessary for a healthy and happy workforce that’s set to change the world.”

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