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How IT workers are losing the battle against nerd stereotypes

The IT industry is still dogged by the cliche of the geeky and socially inept IT worker and it's putting off young people from a career in IT.

One of the world's youngest billionaires may work with computers but the stereotype of the geeky tech worker still seems to be putting young people off entering the industry.

Tech workers believe they are still dogged by the geek stereotype.

The majority of 576 IT professionals surveyed by recruitment website CWJobs.co.uk believe that new entrants are deterred by the cliché of the nerdy tech worker. Compounding the image problem is a perception that IT is not a fun career, according to more than one third (39 per cent) of those surveyed.

Their perception that young people are shying away from IT is borne out by the figures, for the last 10 years no more than three per cent of undergraduates in the UK have chosen to study computer science.

This lack of enthusiasm for IT is despite industry and government-backed attempts to entice students and school pupils to study tech. These include the Behind the Screen programme, launched by IT industry skills body eSkills UK last year to develop an engaging and rigorous IT curriculum for GCSE and A-Level.

Richard Nott, website director for CWJobs.co.uk said the problem is that young people do not associate the technology they enjoy using every day with IT.

"There seems to be a disconnect between what young people perceive a career in IT to be and an acknowledgement of how this translates into the gadgets, smartphones and consoles they use on a daily basis," he said.

Linking the IT profession with technology young people enjoy - such as social media, mobile and gaming - will help destroy the geek stereotype, techies told the survey.

Education is key to persuading young people to pursue an IT career, techies said, with nearly half (49 per cent) saying that kids should be taught IT from the age of eight or under. The UK government has promised to scrap the national IT curriculum, which was criticised for its focus on office skills, and allow teachers to teach IT in more interesting ways.

The IT industry is also not doing enough to attract young people into the profession, according to the majority of those surveyed (64 per cent). Industry should offer more apprenticeships, better promote the industry to young people and sponsor more university degrees, they said.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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