The lack of diversity, the talent shortages, and the skills gaps are all well-known issues within the tech industry, and recent studies have shown that things are only getting worse. Encouraging more young people to pursue careers in tech is critical not only for futureproofing the workforce of tomorrow but may also hold the key to solving some of the industry's most pressing challenges.
According to a report by Korn Ferry, industries are projected to face a global talent shortage of 4.3 million workers by 2030. In another survey conducted by CompTIA, 93% of IT decision-makers reported experiencing a skills gap, with more than 50% stating that the gap is significant. At the same time, almost half of younger Millennial and Generation Z people in the UK, US, Germany, and China believe it is too late for them to pivot to a career in technology since they were unable to pursue tech-related subjects in school, revealed a 2021 study from Finsbury Glover Hering.
The above statistics are concerning, but they also reveal a significant opportunity to bridge the technology skills gap by addressing the rising perception among young people that a career in technology is “not for them”. Following National Careers Week – and all year long – Templeton and our charity partner Tech She Can join forces to help dispel these misconceptions and guide the next generation towards fulfilling careers in technology.
In this article, we will explore the next generation’s perceptions of the tech industry today, the importance and benefits of a young and diverse workforce, and the steps we can take to inspire and empower more young people to join this exciting and dynamic field.
What Gen Z Thinks About Careers in Tech
Today, younger generations are entering the workforce with a clear advantage over older generations: they have grown up surrounded by technology in almost every aspect of their lives. Although this experience places these “digital natives” in the perfect position to secure a career in tech or other industries that rely heavily on technology and could use their skills, studies have shown that misconceptions and a lack of awareness prevent many young people from pursuing technology careers.
Among the top barriers that stop young people from choosing a career path in tech is the perception that the industry is too complicated and that they lack the necessary skills or strengths to succeed in tech careers, the lack of diversity and inclusivity within the sector, and the industry’s reputation for poor work-life balance and a negative culture.
Whether they rely on facts, perceptions or misconceptions, here are some of the main reasons young people are still put off from joining the tech industry:
Poor Education and Lack of Awareness
While many young people may have their eye on a tech role, most of the time, this is put off due to a lack of confidence in their ability to develop the skills or strengths needed to land a job in the sector. According to a study by the Learning and Work Institute, although 88% of young people believe digital skills will be important for their future careers and 62% believe they have basic digital skills, only 18% of them feel confident with advanced technology skills – which leads them to believe they don’t have what it takes to progress in tech.
Interestingly, young people over 19 years were more likely than other age groups to feel that they don’t have the skills required to work in technology and that there are not many jobs within the industry they could see themselves working, according to another report by Tech Nation. The report also revealed that 16-year-olds are more likely to want to work in technology roles versus any other age group. This shows that older teens may be interested in technology, but many think it’s already “too late” for them to look into a career in the sector.
A lack of awareness about the industry is also a barrier that keeps students and young people from considering a career in tech. CWJobs’ Digital Generation 2021 report revealed that more than half (57%) of Gen Zs agree that a tech career seems complicated, with women being 10% more likely to think so.
The main challenge in this context is the absence of technology-related subjects in the school curriculum and the lack of proper exposure to basic digital skills, like coding and analytical thinking, in the early stages of education. Schools around the world are rarely equipped to offer IT training to young students and often fail to provide even basic digital literacy skills. This shortfall not only doesn’t help students build confidence in their abilities and technical skills but also discourages them from pursuing a career in the technology field.
To meet the rising demand for tech specialists, technology should be treated as a fundamental subject in schools. By introducing basic coding to the school curriculum, students can be exposed to the exciting world of technology. However, it's also important to recognise that the tech industry is much more than just coding. There are many different jobs and career paths available in the field that don’t require coding or specialist developer skills. Students need to have the proper career guidance and education to learn from the early stages of their education about how many diverse jobs are available to them in the tech sector.
Young people focus more on practical needs when it comes to choosing careers, such as workplace culture and quality of life. And Gen Z, as the generation of workers who wants it all, is not willing to settle for anything less than a job and a working environment that prioritises their well-being, offers great work-life balance, and much flexibility.
Poor Work-Life Balance
While providing a good work-life balance is a top priority for 64% of young people in the U.S., 57% in China, 56% in the U.K. and 50% in Germany, according to research from Finsbury Glover Hering, the tech sector’s reputation for the grind and hustle of long working hours and a desk-based job comes with no surprise as another factor putting off younger people.
Even though this seems to be just a false perception, with technology coming out on top for work-life balance quality, as reported by Glassdoor, this indicates that younger people’s expectations from their jobs have changed, and this is something that employers and organisations need to consider.
Poor Internal Culture
Over the years, the technology sector has also earned a reputation for poor internal culture. The increasingly higher expectations of tech workers to keep operations up and running during the pandemic and the tech companies’ massive layoffs post-pandemic only added to the sector’s controversial tactics.
While companies from a variety of industries are already struggling to find tech candidates that can transform their business, the negative perception of the industry's culture is not only discouraging young people from pursuing careers in tech but also causing current employees to quit their jobs. According to new research from Wiley Edge and Wiley, 59% of young professionals between the ages of 18 and 24 said the company culture in their tech-based role made them so uncomfortable that they had quit or at least thought about quitting.
The statistics were even more alarming for underrepresented groups, with 64% of women, 77% of black people, 67% of individuals from mixed-race backgrounds, 68% of young bisexuals, and 87% of gay people reporting having left or considered leaving a job due to company culture.
Lack of Diversity and Inclusivity
Despite a significant diversity push across industries in recent years, young people still view diversity as a major challenge and a deterrent when considering a career in tech. Recent studies reveal that a great percentage of young people believe tech careers are only accessible to people from wealthier socio-economic backgrounds, the industry is predominantly white, and there is a lack of racial and gender diversity in the sector.
While many young people have a profound interest in pursuing a tech career, accessibility issues and the industry's lack of diversity pose significant obstacles. It’s not the work itself causing an issue: Notably, almost 44% of young people report that they enjoy their work in tech, and 38% find it interesting. However, 71% of young people in the sector say that they feel uncomfortable at work due to factors like gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, or neurodiversity.
The latest statistics reveal that young people perceive the tech sector as:
“Too White” – Lack of Racial and Ethnic Diversity
- Only 15% of tech workers are from diverse ethnic backgrounds, compared to 12.5% in the general UK population, and individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds hold only 5% of tech leadership positions. (Digital Economy Council)
- In 2020, only 8% of IT specialists were of Indian ethnicity, while those from black, African, Caribbean or black British backgrounds accounted for 2%, as did those from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds. (BCS)
- One in ten young people from a mixed ethnic background, along with 10% of black individuals, are worried that the industry is not ethnically diverse enough. What’s more, 17% of people in tech from a black African background say they don’t feel welcomed by their colleagues in the tech workplace, and 22% of them actively dislike their company’s culture. (Wiley Edge)
“Too Male-Dominated” – The Gender Gap
- Almost 55% of young people in the UK are concerned about the lack of diversity in the tech sector, with those who would consider a career in the sector claiming it is too male-dominated. (Wiley Edge)
- Women are more likely than men to perceive that they don’t have the skills to work in tech (45%), that they have a lack of knowledge about technology (38%), or that it is not for people like them (24%). (Tech Nation)
- Over 12% of women say there aren't enough good role models for them in tech, compared to only 8% of men. (PwC)
- Just 27% of the A-level and university-age women are interested in careers in technology, compared to 62% of males - while only 3% of females cite technology as their first choice career. (Tech She Can)
- More than 60% of people aged between 16 and 26 in the UK were very interested in the idea of a tech job, but this interest was greater among young men or young people who have taken part in higher education. (OECD)
- Over 20% of those who identify as homosexuals think that they wouldn’t feel welcome in the industry, compared to 9% of heterosexuals. (Wiley Edge)
- 60% of tech workers with a disability reported experiencing discrimination on the job. (Hired)
- Only 32% of individuals with Asperger's syndrome who worked in technology felt they had received adequate support from their employer. (Asperger/Autism Network)
The above figures show that in addition to an urgency to improve awareness about tech roles, there’s also an urgency to improve diversity in tech. This lack of diversity in IT can often prevent young people from seeking a career in the sector as they cannot see other people like them aspire.
Reshaping Perceptions or Breaking Down Barriers?
The tech sector needs more young and diverse talent. That’s a fact.
The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, resulting in an unprecedented surge of technology investment worldwide across all industries and markets. This has led to an increase in investments, innovation, and digital disruption. However, none of these advancements can be achieved without a vital component: new tech talent.
However, almost 9 in 10 executives anticipate the technology skills gap to grow bigger within the next five years due to factors such as ageing populations, lack of investment in training and development, and scarcity of role models for diverse and female talent.
At the same time, the current state of the technology sector today – or the next generation of workers' perception of it – is creating a wedge between the actual demand and the potential for tech careers, impacting young people's willingness and readiness to enter the industry. For many young people, a career in technology feels out of reach, while the sector faces key reputational gaps that drive the idea that technology is "not for them."
Studies suggest that diversity and accessibility issues, along with work environment concerns, are among the top barriers holding young people back from considering a career in tech. The younger generation's negative perceptions around the industry's culture and the lack of diversity in tech (especially in terms of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status) couldn't pronounce more the urgent need for the industry to reposition itself as inclusive and accessible to all.
Technology-related educational gaps and a lack of proper career guidance in the early stages of schooling are also a roadblock for many young people that, despite their youth, believe it's too late for them to enter the industry because they "didn't have the opportunity to study subjects in school that would prepare them for a career in technology."
Whether it requires breaking down barriers or reshaping perceptions, enhancing the sector's accessibility, helping young people understand the opportunities available to them in tech, and encouraging them to eliminate self-limiting beliefs, could be the key to solving the industry's greatest challenge: attracting young and diverse tech talent.
Without comprehending young people’s concerns, existing perceptions and aspirations, the tech sector may be at risk of facing a dystopian future where machines are abundant, but skilled professionals are scarce.
How to Attract Young and Diverse Talent into Tech
By looking at the sector’s reputation through the eyes of future talent, we can better understand and identify the barriers and opportunities that influence their career choices. But once they have this information, how can governments, educational institutions, organisations, and businesses across countries and industries utilise it to encourage more young people to enter the sector?
Emphasising the Role of Technology in Education
Education and training are key to preparing young people for the world of work by providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to prosper in the future. If tech subjects were given more prominence in the school curriculum, for example, students would have the opportunity to learn more about technology and how it’s shaping the world we live in, what working in technology involves, and what skills they need to develop to achieve their career goals.
Moreover, by introducing subjects like coding, data analytics and graphic design in the early stages of education, students can develop transferable tech skills that can be useful in many different roles and be aware from a young age of all the possibilities that tech skills can bring – inside and outside of the technology industry.
Education may also be the answer to tackling the tech’s diversity challenges. Today, technology is hardly even mentioned as a possibility to many young girls and minorities. Ensuring that it’s presented to all students as a potential career choice, regardless of gender, race, or status, is essential to building a rich and diverse talent pipeline to futureproof the sector.
Increasing Access and Awareness
Greater awareness of the technology industry and the opportunities available is not enough unless all students feel that a career in technology is within their reach. There needs to be a collective effort from the technology industry and educational institutions to create alternative entry routes into the profession. Approaches might include increasing the availability of apprenticeships in tech roles, partnerships with schools that allow students to engage with employers and industry experts, or work experience opportunities at younger ages.
These programmes provide young people with an opportunity to gain the skills and practical experience they need to succeed in their careers. Additionally, they can help students gain valuable insights into the different career paths and progression opportunities available to them within different organisations and industries.
Creating Visible Role Models
The significance of visible role models at all levels cannot be overstated. As the saying goes: "You can't be what you can't see." So, in order to cultivate greater interest among diverse individuals in pursuing technology as a viable career choice, they need to be exposed to more diverse role models at every level of the industry.
However, championing role models in tech is not only key to encouraging young people to enter the sector. It can also help change the mindset that technology is primarily the domain of white, privileged men. Particularly for young women, the efforts should be focused more on promoting existing role models and advancing more women into tech leadership positions. This will increase their visibility and encourage future generations of women to pursue careers in technology.
Creating an Attractive and Inclusive Industry
Here’s a harsh truth – there aren’t any “simple tips or tricks” to creating an industry that is truly inclusive and welcoming, where individuals of all genders and backgrounds would be able to reach their full potential. It requires a significant investment of time and collective effort from all involved. And, while reshaping an entire industry is easier said than done, smaller steps towards this goal might be the answer. Businesses within the industry, for example, could start by:
- Putting in place support mechanisms that prioritise employee well-being and work-life balance and give them more control over their work and flexibility.
- Implementing inclusive hiring practices and reducing bias in recruitment processes.
- Attracting more women into the sector and making sure all employees have equal opportunities in training and professional development.
- Creating a healthy company culture where employees feel valued, safe, comfortable, and flush with opportunities for growth.
The Importance of National Careers Week
National Careers Week (NCW) is an annual event in the UK that promotes career opportunities for young people and encourages them to explore different career paths. It is supported by a range of organisations, including schools, colleges, universities, employers and career advisors. NCW provides a platform for these groups to come together and promote career guidance and education through various activities, including career fairs, workshops, employer talks, and mentoring sessions.
During this week, students and young people have the opportunity to engage with employers and industry experts, learn about different career options, and gain valuable insights into the skills and qualifications required for the professions they’re interested in.
The significance of National Careers Week lies in its fundamental objectives, which are:
- To raise awareness about the importance of lifelong learning and professional development: – In today’s uncertain job market, it’s essential for individuals to continue developing their skills and knowledge throughout their working lives. NCW can help inspire young people to take control of their own learning and invest in their future career prospects.
- To promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace – Young people need to understand that a wide range of career paths are available to them, regardless of their background or circumstances. By showcasing a diverse range of careers and highlighting the skills and qualifications required for each, NCW can help to break down barriers and encourage greater social mobility.
- To offer young individuals opportunities to engage with the world of work – Employers play a key role in NCW as they share their insights into the skills and qualities they look for in new hires. This gives young people a valuable opportunity to gain valuable insights into the world of work, learn about different industries and the skills that are most in demand (such as coding, data analysis, and artificial intelligence), as well as identify areas where they may need to improve their skillset and knowledge.
While National Careers Week may have passed, the tech skills gap and misperceptions about careers in technology among young people remain. To tackle these challenges, educational institutions, career advisors, organisations, and employers must work together to provide ongoing education and career guidance. By doing so, we can encourage more young people to enter the field and create a more diverse and skilled workforce that can meet the demands of the ever-evolving tech industry.
About Tech She Can
Built on the principles of Diversity and Inclusion, Templeton & Partners understands the significance of having allies that share our passion and commitment to ensure a diverse future workforce and a world where tech works for all.
Templeton charity partner Tech She Can is an independent organisation that aims to improve the ratio of women in technology by inspiring and educating young girls and women about the various career opportunities available in tech. The charity also seeks to address the shortage of skills in technology and represent female perspectives in the development and use of technologies.
During National Careers Week and all year long, Tech She Can raises awareness of tech careers for girls and diverse young people through:
- CV workshops for school students run by our experienced diverse recruiters
- School assemblies and presentations on different tech careers and how young people can access them
- Practice interviews for school and college leavers
- Fundraising and awareness campaigns
At Templeton & Partners, we pride ourselves on having a diverse and international team that is committed to delivering top-notch tech recruitment services across the globe. As industry players, we recognise the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and our responsibility to foster young, skilled, and diverse tech talent in the industry.
Find out more about our multi-award-winning recruitment services.
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