National Careers Week: the barriers stopping young people entering the tech sector

Research released by cloud talent firm Revolent, in line with National Careers Week, revealed the biggest barriers that young people are facing when it comes to entering the tech sector

Taking place this week, National Careers Week aims to promote education and guidance of career options for young people across the UK leaving school or university.

With a growing skills gap, the tech sector is in need of new talent, but Revolent research has found that young people are still put off joining the industry.

According to the Learning and Work Institute, 88% of young people think digital skills will be important for their future careers, while 62% said they have basic skills digital skills.

However, only 18% said they felt confident with advanced skills such as coding and using more specialist software, which employers might need.

Revolent identified the following as the top three biggest barriers young people are experiencing when looking for a suitable job in tech:

  • Mismatch between skill demand and offering;
  • Uncomfortable company culture;
  • Tech’s reputation for poor work-life balance.

“With so many young people now naturally picking up most basic digital skills needed to land a job, one trend often identified on the market is a lack of specialist skills in candidates looking to enter the tech industry,” said Nabila Salem, president at Revolent Group.

“People often have their eye on a tech role but can be put off due to a lack of confidence in with specialist skills such as coding using specific software.

“As an ever-evolving field, technology will continue to maintain demand for such skills, so we need candidates who are confident in their ability to develop those skills.”

A skills mismatch

Genevieve Leveille, CEO of blockchain solutions company AgriLedger, believes that the greatest challenge is the lack of curriculum addressing either pure coding, or at least analytical thinking approaches.

She commented: “We need to make technology a basic language if we are to be able to meet this rising demand for tech specialists.

“That is not to say that everyone needs to be a coder, it’s more similar to how we can all speak English but not all of us are skilled writers. Young people can take learnings beyond pure code, and have a language that they can utilise to be able to meet the demands of their organisations and achieve a greater level of success.”

When considering how to achieve this, Sarah Bennett, CIO at Mercator IT Solutions, suggested that companies assist by running sessions in schools and universities, demonstrating what is available within the world of technology.

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Considering culture

With almost a third of employees leaving their jobs due to toxic company culture, there’s a genuine need for appropriate support networks for people of all backgrounds and life experiences in the tech sector.

Salem commented: “Too often we focus on company culture as something that gives a company its identity, but the truth is it’s the people that make a company what it is, not policies.

“Having a pre-decided culture and hiring people to fit into that doesn’t
just put people off joining, but it gives you a narrower perspective and results.”

Bennett, meanwhile. believes that this is all down to business: “Creating an environment where staff share, help and generally seek to uplift others creates a happier culture. 

“This has cultivated an environment where no matter your background, culture, skills or experience – everyone is treated the same.”

Improving work-life balance

With remote and hybrid working showing no signs of ceasing in the tech industry, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital to the mental health of workers.

57% of young people said they were looking for a better work-life balance in their career of choice, according to Finsbury Glover Hering, as it means the opportunity is there for businesses to react with the support needed to attract professionals into the industry.

“There’s been a huge shift and we saw the true value of tech experts, as the world moved online,” Salem added.

“Putting support mechanisms in place that prioritise wellbeing weren’t just the right thing to do, but they were essential to avoid burnout in
a critical workforce.

“With the addition of remote work, there’s never been a better opportunity for IT professionals to find the perfect work-life balance.”  

Levielle believes that clear communication around what working in technology involves and the freedoms it offers is needed: “In the same way there can be long hours, there can also be a greater freedom from working in technology.

“One of the benefits of the space is the aspect of working on clear deliverables. This allows for greater accountability and freedom of movement.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.