Improving digital skills will boost UK economy, study shows

£11 billion could be added to the economy by 2022 if young people's digital skills are invested in, the report suggests

Will Martin

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Improving young people's technology skills could boost the UK economy by £11 billion over the next five years, a new study by BT and Accenture suggests.

According to the report, entitled "Tech Know-how – the new way to get ahead for the next generation", professionals with "expert" levels of digital literacy – such as being able to use programming languages – currently earn £10,000 a year more than those who consider themselves to have a "competent" skill level – such as being able to use search engines, email, and social media.

The study, which surveyed 4,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24, found that if young people find work at the higher skill levels by 2022, the total increase in salaries would add £11 billion to the country’s economy.

Access to skills

The report suggests that "computational thinking" should be “the thread that runs through the school curriculum and teacher training” and that young people should be shown how tech is used in the things they are interested in.

It also recommends that the government ensures young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are given access to skills development and work experience – and increased investment in existing employees’ skillsets.

The study also reveals that young men are 46 per cent more likely to be encouraged to build on their tech skills by family and friends – and 17 per cent more likely to have had enough computer science training at school, compared to their female counterparts.

Meanwhile, in London, young people are 50 per cent more likely to want to be expert users of technology than the national average, the report says. In Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East, young people show the lowest levels of ambition to improve their tech skills.

'Move beyond talking'

Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT Group, 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.”

Olly Benzecry, chairman and managing director for Accenture in the UK and Ireland, said: “We know that technology offers tremendous opportunity for economic growth, and technology skills provide a path for individuals to personally grow and flourish. Our task is to improve technology skills in the UK – and to make them available in an inclusive way so that all can benefit. At Accenture, we are particularly focused on these ‘skills to succeed,’ but we need to partner with the private sector, the government, the education system and parents to ensure that the opportunity is fully realised.”

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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