World Youth Skills Day, recently celebrated on 15e of July, spotlighted the next generation of digitally-skilled people, who hold the keys to solving the UK’s digital skills crisis, but also underlined that there is a lot of work to be done in this area.
Digital skills are essential in all industries, many of which depend on technology for day-to-day success. Maximizing technology means maximizing capabilities that are vital to day-to-day operations and to the growth of businesses and industries.
Yet despite this, the digital skills of younger generations are apparently undervalued. Why do we struggle to break down barriers and create new opportunities?
The question of young people’s skills in figures
The challenge young people face when entering the workforce, especially in technology-based roles, is difficult. In the UK, between January and March 2022, some 438,000 young people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed, including 77,000 unemployed for more than 12 months.
Young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults, in addition to being exposed to labor market inequalities and longer and more precarious school-to-work transitions.
All of this has come at a time when post-pandemic tech vacancies have increased by 191% and account for a higher proportion of all jobs available in the UK, with over 64,000 vacancies .
Our current system has and continues to fail the potential and needs of young people, who are more than capable of helping solve the digital skills crisis and job shortages.
The potential of youth
There is no doubt that today’s young people are digitally savvy. For instance, With you With me recently analyzed the aptitude test results of over 600 young people aged 15 to 25, revealing that 80% of young people have “above average” aptitude for technological skills.
This includes basic attributes such as pattern recognition and abstract reasoning which are essential for a number of technology-related roles.
Young people are often overlooked by employees for entry-level positions because they are seen as lacking sufficient experience or education, but this way of thinking immediately closes off a vast talent pool of potential staff.
By moving to a skills-based approach, for example, organizations can identify people with the right skills for technical roles and then train them to be competent.
The path to solving the digital skills crisis
The path to solving the digital skills crisis requires a willingness to adapt and acknowledge our past failures.
It’s clear that traditional approaches to training and hiring are no longer enough and organizations need to adapt to a new way of thinking and use new methods, such as aptitude testing.
Resolving the crisis also requires strong leadership and management. If people feel empowered, they are much more likely to have a positive impact on a situation, which can be critical for a growing business. Young people are the perfect candidates for this because of their willingness to learn.
But it’s not just young people who have a major role to play, it’s also military veterans, neurodivergent individuals, and other underemployed and unemployed groups who are consistently overlooked for tech roles. With proper training, all of these groups, who have aptitude for technical skills, can become proficient in digital skills.
The UK needs to modernize the way we recruit, develop and retain our workforce. This will revolve around disrupting traditional approaches and finding the underutilized talent pools we have, including our young people.
Global Youth Skills Day serves to shine a light on the digital skills that younger generations have to offer, but once again it served as a reminder that collectively we are not doing enough to champion the tech skills of our youth.
By Sir James Everard, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for NATO
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