The current 13 to 17-year-olds are developing digital skills that could transform UK economy, study suggests

Tech-savvy teens to solve skills shortage in future study suggests

The UK’s digital skills shortage is set to become a thing of the past as soon as the current generation of 13 to 17- year-olds steps into the job market, a study has suggested.

According to the Realtime Generation report by international IT solutions provider Logicalis, the current teens are growing into workforce with digital skills beyond existing expectations.

43 per cent of the 1000 surveyed teenagers said they are already coding or would like to learn how. Of those already coding, 48 per cent are girls. 7 per cent have tried hacking, which proportionately equates to at least one hacker per classroom.

The millennial generation is also well aware of the value of their personal data – they would be happy to sell their personal information for £15, instead of earning the same amount of cash from a job. They are also willing to provide their personal information in exchange for a better deal.

"While some of the statistics around hacking and online behaviour may be alarming, it's essential we recognise the economic potential of these instinctively digital teenagers,” said Gerry Carroll, author of the report and marketing director at Logicalis UK. “Whether creating new careers in an increasingly digitalised workplace, or nurturing the skills so sorely needed in the IT industry, today's teenagers are better placed than ever before to achieve the efficiency and productivity promise of IT.”

41 per cent of the teenagers involved in Logicalis's survey are studying computer science and 52 per cent would make the subject mandatory (of which 45 per cent are girls).

This strong expressed interest of girls in computer sciences, however, is not reflected in their preferred career choices. While IT & Information Management is the number one career option for boys (with 28 per cent), followed by Manufacturing & Engineering and Science & Research, among girls the three most preferred professional paths are in Education & Training, Medicine & Nursing and Arts, Crafts & Design.

An average UK 13 to 19 old spends nine hours a day online. 93 per cent own a smartphone and each of them owns on average 4.9 connected devices. They also consider the ability to use ICT programs the second most important skill in the workplace, following time management.

"With numerous reports bemoaning the loss of jobs to increasingly computerised functions, this generation is busy developing the skills it needs for careers that don't yet exist,” Carroll remarked. “The next decade will see an influx of employees whose capabilities will be light years ahead from our existing expectations of 'ICT skills'. Able to create, build or knowledgeably commission the IT they want, today's teenagers are a future workforce with the potential to enable and transform the UK's digital economy."

According to a study by Go.On UK, published in October 2015, over a million small businesses in the UK do not have the right skills to prosper in the digital era. The key digital skills according to the charity are managing information online, communicating online, making payments, solving problems and creating digital content.

The Go.On UK survey also revealed that women tend to be worse digitally equipped than men.

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