World Youth Skills Day is an opportunity to celebrate the educators equipping young people with the skills they need to thrive in today’s workplace. It’s also a reminder that much more must be done to ensure new generations are prepared for the transformative changes occurring to the way we work.
With AI now ranking as the number 1 priority in large company training strategies over the next four years, and expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of companies, it is imperative that young people are not left behind. Although it is often assumed that younger generations – digital natives – are more tech savvy than their older peers, a study from Dell found that 37% of Gen Z said their education did not adequately prepare them for the technology skills they need for their future careers.
Digital education in schools as a start
For all young people, the first step in acquiring tech skills is in formal education. Often, educators lack these skills themselves, and young people are never exposed to STEM careers as a result. For Matt Waring, Education Channel Manager at Logitech, “it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills to work in a digital-first world. This means it’s even more important that teachers have the skills, backed by the right solutions, to support this.”
Isabelle Blanchot, Chief for Business Platform at AND Digital, also believes that digital skills training in schools needs to be improved. She says that “enforcing better digital skills training needs to be actioned now, not only across the workplace but also in schools where learning begins.” Isabelle thinks that tech companies should be working alongside schools to provide tailored training sessions and work experience opportunities. She believes that teachers must be “kept up to date with the numerous different types of jobs in tech which will help them widen the STEM career options their students are exposed to.”
This sentiment is echoed by Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of Pluralsight, who believes that “although younger workers are considered ‘digitally-native’, we are seeing that they may actually be less equipped for the future of technical work than we thought. The pace of technological change has created a marked gap between the tech skills learnt in traditional education and the ones needed to succeed in the modern tech industry.”
Referencing the pervasive impact new technologies will have, James Fisher, Chief Strategy Officer at Qlik addsthat ”both education institutions and businesses must do more to continuously upskill young people with modern data skills as they will be indispensable regardless of what sector they choose to work in.”
Non-technical skills for a technical world
In light of the rapidly changing technology landscape, Bryan Stallings, Chief Evangelist at Lucid Software, champions soft skills, noting that young people must be capable of “– approaching complex and changing environments with an open and adaptive mindset. The skill of adaptability is vital today in our complex and rapidly changing organisations because it enables people to approach change without fear and embrace it with curiosity and positivity.”
Technical skills are often stereotyped as being just numbers and code, but as Lauren McCann, Head of Figma for Education identifies, “as computers and AI continue to improve their text outputs, one area where students can lean in is visual storytelling.” She aims to “give [students] the skills they’ll need no matter what the age of AI brings — problem solving, communication, collaboration, iterative thinking — while also helping them transcend the transactional elements of AI in school.”
Helping young people transition to work
Supporting young people to develop workplace skills goes beyond formal education in schools. For Adrian Fieldhouse, Managing Director, Government and Transport at Sopra Steria, “it’s critical that businesses take an avid interest in the workforce of the future, supporting, encouraging and helping young people to understand how they can shape society with technology.” Adrian believes that tech companies must now be “diversifying their entry routes and training programmes to remove barriers to entry to build a diverse and skilled pipeline of young tech talent and drive positive change in business and society.”
There is evidence to suggest that this hands-on approach helps young people feel more confident, as proven by Rebecca Newman, Communications Intern at SAP. On her communications placement at the company, Rebecca comments that she has “had the opportunity to work on real-life, purpose-driven projects across a variety of teams.” This in turn has given her “invaluable experience in areas such as problem-solving, teamwork and critical thinking – all vital skills for the world of work.”
Businesses also stand to benefit from integrating young people into the workplace, as Jillian Moore, Global Advisory Lead and Executive Sustainability Sponsor at Avanade states “As a generation of digital natives enters the workplace, business leaders need to ensure we nurture these existing skillsets to thrive and inspire, as well as listening to them to learn ourselves.” She notes that “there is a need for ongoing efforts to provide young people with rich and constantly evolving learning experiences, ensuring they have the adaptability and perseverance to continue to benefit from continual change.”
Ed Challis, Head of AI Strategy at UiPath, agrees that young people have something unique to offer and are: “catalysts for major workplace change”. Challis sees that “the skills they learn today will set the precedent for careers of the future” and what “business leaders need to be prepared for is the AI-first mindset youth talent will arrive with and how their expectations on work will be vastly different from generations before.”
A bright future ahead
Although there are shortcomings in education to prepare young people for the world of work, there are positive signs that businesses are eager to support them to develop the skills they need. If young people today have the ambition and drive to pursue their talents, they can continue to have rewarding careers.