Lack of IT education holding young people back from having tech careers

Almost half (42%) of the British public believes a lack of Information Technology (IT) and tech education throughout primary and secondary school has been a barrier to a potential career in tech, new research has revealed.

The study by BAE Systems’ Digital Intelligence business, Driving Digital Diversity, surveyed more than 2,000 people across the UK working inside and outside of tech and cyber security to explore the perceived barriers that may be putting people off from a career in the field. Those surveyed were from a range of age, gender, neurodiverse, socioeconomic and ethnic groups.

The report highlighted five key areas which respondents believe are putting students off pursuing jobs in the sector:

  • Assuming they need a tech or IT orientated degree (49%)
  • A lack of tech or IT education at primary and secondary school (42%)
  • Tech not being highlighted as an attractive or exciting career path at school (41%)
  • The financial cost of pursuing a tech or IT education (29%)
  • A lack of understanding about the opportunities available (29%)

Theresa Palmer, global head of DE&I at BAE Systems’ Digital Intelligence business, said: “It’s clear that respondents’ formative years play a pivotal role in shaping their ideas about tech careers. There’s a misconception that an IT orientated degree is necessary to enter the industry, despite many tech roles not requiring a degree level qualification.

“This begins at school, where more action needs to be taken to promote careers in the field as attractive options that are open to everybody. The industry itself has a big part to play here, through better showcasing alternative routes into tech and placing a greater focus on transferable skill sets and people skills in job applications.”

According to the research, a stronger emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) could go some way to encouraging more people into tech careers and help to plug the current industry skills gap, which is estimated to cost the digital economy £63bn annually.

Three-quarters (73%) of respondents said the IT industry could do more to encourage job applicants from different backgrounds – rising to 83% of respondents who work in tech and 90% of cyber security professionals polled.

Theresa Palmer added: “Businesses with a diverse and inclusive workforce perform better and in turn generate different ideas, approaches and skill sets. The benefits are manifold, ranging from improving morale, boosting problem solving abilities, filling skills gaps and improving financial results. Addressing the lack of significant change in DE&I is therefore a matter of urgency and should be approached like any other business issue.

“Only through working closely with the broader tech ecosystem, including government, the education sector and specialist social enterprises, such as InnovateHer, can we truly address perceived barriers.

“Collaboration is essential to developing more effective curricula, driving place-based initiatives and offering a greater breadth of opportunities to people at an early age.”

BAE Systems has regularly partnered with InnovateHer, a North West based social enterprise company, which aims to encourage more girls and non-binary students aged 13-16 to consider careers in STEM.

Chelsea Slater, CEO and co-Founder of InnovateHer, said: “By addressing the gaps in tech education at school level, we are empowering young people to break stereotypes and envision a future in the sector.

“Through our programmes in partnership with businesses such as BAE Systems, we pave the way for a more inclusive tech landscape. Together, we’re ensuring that more young people feel encouraged and equipped to embark on a fulfilling career journey in tech.”

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