A recent report conducted by O2 found that the UK has a wealth of untapped digital resource amongst its population. O2 went as far to state that a combination of web design, e-marketing and social media skills possessed by young people could be worth up to £6.7 billion to UK employers.
The report was conducted by O2 on the back of a publication that UK businesses expected at least a fifth of their new business to come via digital channels. Businesses believe that digital skills are as important to business growth as business development and customer acquisition skills, yet they claim there is a skills shortage of these digital skills available to them.
O2 surveyed 1,000 young people and found that 90% reported they could use social media to promote an event, 65% could design a website, 20% could design an app and 25% had experience of doing coding. This is in comparison to only 35% of the over 25s in the population being ‘digitally savvy’. Unfortunately, despite these available skills, very few of these young people are employed in an IT job or within the digital industry. The 16-24 year old age group still also has the highest unemployment rate in the population.
One of the key challenges to addressing this problem is to engage young people in thinking about their long term job prospects and consider an IT career as a possible career choice. Fortunately, organisations such as STEMNET (the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Network) have been in existence for nearly 20 years. The educational charity has the key goal of ‘ensuring that all young people, regardless of background, are encouraged to understand the excitement and importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in their lives, and the career opportunities to which the STEM subjects can lead’. The long term aim is that more young people, from a more diverse background will continue to study STEM subjects to A-level and degree standard.
STEMNET promotes its work via three main programmes: Firstly, by using its 25,000 strong army of volunteers to promote STEM in primary and secondary schools, via talks, mentoring or running activity programmes. Secondly, to work with teachers to deepen their understanding of subjects, career choices and encouraging them to be taught in an engaging and innovative way. Thirdly, STEMNET organises after-school clubs for all young people to explore STEM subjects further.
An example of the type of work that STEMNET does to encourage children to consider IT careers, is the Video Games Ambassador Scheme set up last year. The project leader, Ian Livingstone, explains that the project works by showing that: “A desire by children to play video games has to be transferred into a desire to make them. Video games provide the perfect medium to encourage young people to study maths and science, and we want those children to become the highly skilled video games workforce of tomorrow.”
By continuing this valuable work, young people will be more informed about the enormous range of career choices available to them and become more aware of just how attractive their skills can be to employers.