One of the most prevalent stereotypes about young people is that they instinctively know more about technology than the generations that preceded them. Despite its agist implications, many aspects of this ring quite true.
Just think about it—younger generations are exposed to tech earlier and earlier, and it is more deeply ingrained in their lives. They are digital natives. However, despite this natural tech skill and growing interest in it, the next generation (Generation Z) shows barely any interest in pursuing IT jobs.
According to a new study by IT trade association CompTIA, a mere 13% of 13-17 year-olds surveyed said they want to pursue a career in IT. This is despite the fact that 70% of Generation Z respondents reporting that they love technology.
According to the CompTIA report, much of Generation Z's disinterest in technological professions is mainly due to their lack of understanding about the field. This is especially true in school, with 38% of junior high and high school students saying their schools provide no information on IT jobs. According to Code.org, only 10% of high schools in the US offer computer science classes.
Also, the gender gap prevailed among Generation Z respondents with only 10% of girls saying they were interested in IT, compared to 23% of boys.
Millennials are the hot topic of workplace conversation now, as they will soon be the majority represented generation in the workforce. However, the following Generation Z will begin moving into the workplace in a few years, and the disconnect between their love for technology and interest in IT jobs is troubling. Seth Robinson, the senior director of technology analysis at CompTIA, said this is because of the increasingly critical nature of IT in business.
"Every business in every industry is becoming a digital organization, using technology for strategic goals rather than daily operations," Robinson said. "Core IT jobs are becoming more critical, and jobs in other areas of business are gaining stronger technology components."
In the three months leading up to the survey, almost two-thirds of the sample respondents needed some kind of IT support. If that time frame is representative as an average, then according to CompTIA's calculations there are 34.05 million IT support requests every three months. That's a lot of support tickets.
Of these tickets, the majority of the issues were computers. Combine that with the growing prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace and you have a need for support that will likely continue to grow.
So, how do we connect the younger generation's love for technology to an interest in IT? Robinson said that the first step is better education around the subject.
"Many students, teachers, and parents view IT careers in a stereotypical way—needing strong math and science skills and sitting behind a computer all day," he said. "Modern approaches to areas such as data analytics or security require different skills and involve deeper integration with the business."
In addition to the changes facing the workforce with the impending introduction of Generation Z workers, the CompTIA report also took a look at the changing demographics in the workplace overall, and how technology is affecting the multigenerational workforce.
In opening, it looked at the various stereotypes about both Millennials and older workers, and whether or not respondents believed them to be true. However, many were viewed as not holding much truth.
"For as many differences as there are between generations, there are also many things that remain the same, and workers are beginning to gain appreciation for the strengths of a diverse workforce," Robinson said.
For those considering a new job, the company's use of technology played a different role across Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.
- 74% of Millennials said tech is a factor
- 61% of Generation X employees said tech is a factor
- 51% of Baby Boomers said tech is a factor
As employers seek to better manage a multigenerational workforce, good communication will be key. Email still leads the charge, but video conferencing and messaging tools are growing. Also, views on social media use are mixed, so take that into consideration when developing your communication policy.
Interested readers can find the full study here.
What do you think?
How can we get more kids interested in IT jobs? Tell us in the comments.
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Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.