Address gender and economic barriers to tech revolution says BT

Young people from less privileged backgrounds and females face greater barriers to joining the tech revolution, a new report suggests. Tech know-how: The new way to get ahead for the next generation, from BT and Accenture could boost the next generation’s tech skills and help charge social mobility and economic growth. The study found individuals with higher levels of tech know-how earn more as their career progresses, with a ‘tech literacy wage premium’ of £10,000 per year.  The implied salary increase if people develop their skills could add approximately £11 billion to UK GDP by 2022. However, young people whose parents have higher levels of education are 26 percent more likely to see themselves as ‘expert’ or ‘creative’ users of tech in the next five years; and those whose parents fall into the top two education levels expect to earn salaries that are 19 percent higher than the bottom two. The report also highlighted a stark gender divide as young men receive 46 percent more encouragement from parents and teachers to build their tech skills than their female counterparts, and are 17 percent more likely to report having had sufficient training at school.

Without concerted effort from business and the government, the tech revolution could lead to ‘double disadvantage’ – creating another barrier for young people from less privileged backgrounds and young women as they enter the workforce.

Young people in London are also 50 percent more likely to aspire to be ‘creative’ or ‘expert’ users of tech than the national average. Those in Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East displayed the lowest inclination to improve their tech capabilities.

And regardless of background, region, or gender, only 60 percent of young people agree that tech will change the nature of jobs over the next 5 years, while 42 percent associate ‘jobs using tech’ with sitting behind a computer screen – in sharp contrast with the realities of the future workforce where automation and AI, will play an increasingly important role.

Recommendations to support young people

BT and Accenture are calling for the private sector to work with government and civil society to provide the structures, mechanisms and resources to prepare young people for the jobs of the future, regardless of their background, with four recommendations.

  1. Make computational thinking – the building blocks of digital learning – the thread that runs through the school curriculum and teacher training
  2. Show young people – and those who influence them – the role tech plays in the things they love.
  3. Ensure young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are given access to skills development and real experience of the future workplace.
  4. Invest in existing employees’ skills to ensure those at most risk from automation aren’t left behind.

BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson said: “Giving young people the skills and confidence to thrive in the workplaces of the future, is the only way to address social mobility and secure long-term prosperity.

“Tackling this challenge will require the co-ordinated efforts of both the public and private sectors. Without that, we risk stifling future growth and leaving people behind. But we need to move beyond talking and now act, to ensure that young people fully understand the importance of technology and how it will shape their lives and careers.”

The Tech Literacy Summit will take place on 22 November at the BT Tower, with senior leaders from business, government and civil society exploring ways to coordinate activity and collaborate more effectively.

The full report can be found here.