Recent data on the UK jobs market is encouraging: the unemployment rate is at 5.1%, the lowest in 10 years. However, it's important to recognise that unemployment among eligible young people is still in the double-digits according to government statistics - 13.7% for those aged 16-24. And the situation is even more worrying when you look at Europe as a whole: according to the European Commission, youth unemployment is 21% across the continent, with peaks of unemployment of more than 40% in several countries. To compound the problem, long-term unemployment among young people is at a record high now, and that's not expected to shift any time soon.
This is a significant issue, and a frustrating one.
We have a generation of people who are now at risk of not reaching their full potential. And at the same time, although the technology sector continues to grow, we are facing a real skills shortage that will start to impact us all.
Salesforce research recently surveyed more than 2,200 global technology leaders to get a feel for the challenges and opportunities they see ahead. Out of the top 10 pain points they face - including very serious concerns such as security, budgetary constraints, etc. - the concern over this skills gap dominated.
In fact, four out of the 10 biggest obstacles centred on worries that these leaders won't be able to find the tech talent they need for continued success.
These findings align with research from analyst firm empirica that suggests the number of un-filled digital jobs in Europe will reach 756,000 by 2020 - that's a staggering figure.
To ensure the EU and UK economies continue to thrive, and that our young people are best prepared for success in our fast-evolving labour market, it is absolutely imperative we're not only encouraging students to think about careers in technology, but enabling them to make that choice.
I see a role for everyone to play in building the next generation of technology superstars, especially for those already working in tech. We can support organisations like the Stemettes, which focuses on building entrepreneurial passion among female students for STEM subjects. CoderDojo is another amazing organisation, teaching young people how code, build websites and develop apps - some of most sought-after skills in our digital age. Initiatives like these rely on the support of our industry, in particular our skills, to make an impact.
We can also support internship programmes within our organisations, which give young people first-hand experience in the exciting world of tech and teach critical job skills. For many organisations, these programmes are also a great way to build a strong talent pipeline.
For me, it's critical to ensure that everyone involved in technology is actively serving as mentors and talking to these young people in their lives about the exciting, well-paid jobs available in tech. At the same time, we need teachers, parents, in fact anybody with young people in their lives, to actively encourage passions or talents they see that relate to technology and act as role-models in their use of, and enthusiasm for, technology. Let's be realistic - children will always dream of being sports heroes, pop singers and film stars. I think the key is encouraging any interest in STEM subjects and focusing their curiosity around the technology they are already interested in, whether it's video games, computing devices or coding.
There truly is something for everyone in tech. Further, these roles know no borders or boundaries - they can be done in any and every country.
For instance, one of the biggest pain points for today's tech leaders is finding app developers. Organisations of all types are developing their own apps to improve all aspects of their operations, and more than half of those tech leaders surveyed say they see a skills gap with app developers. Being able to code will enable young people to drive the next big app - the future Candy Crush or the next Uber, Airbnb or JustEat. There are so many other types of opportunities for both creative and technically-talented people in the sector.
Careers in the technology industry represent some of the fastest-paced, most interesting, and best-paying careers available. Encouraging a passion for STEM subjects, and an interest in technology, can not only have impact on the continued growth and prosperity of the tech sector, it can also have a massive positive impact on a young person's life.
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