By Yogesh Chauhan, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Tata Consultancy Services
As a parent of two young girls, I often think about their education and how it will affect their future.
With A-level results released last week in the UK, many parents find themselves in the same situation: pondering how the results will impact students’ further education or seeking a career beyond school.
Looking at the technology industry, inspiring the next generation to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – whether they studied computer science A-levels or not – is top of mind for me.
This will be critical to overcoming the digital skills gap and improving diversity in the industry.
Two-thirds of businesses in the UK are currently experiencing a digital skills shortage, according to the Delivering Skills for the New Economy report recently published by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and UK business organization the CBI.
Not only does this limit a company’s potential for innovation, it’s also holding back the wider economy.
In fact, according to the innovation thinktank Nesta, data-driven skills shortages are already costing the UK £2 billion a year.
The tech generation
With such high demand for digital skills, more investment in educating young people today is essential to ensure the future talent pipeline is equipped for modern-day digital needs.
The positive news is that this year’s A-levels show a significant increase in girls studying tech. For the first time, the number of girls taking STEM subjects in the UK slightly outnumbered boys at 50.3%.
This is a step in the right direction, compared to the academic year 2017/18, when only 19,000 female students took computer science exams compared to 88,000 male students.
Although we’re seeing an improvement, it’s clear we need to get more young people involved in what we do. Generation Z is the first digitally native generation and we should be making the most of their natural affinity for tech.
A boost from business
At TCS, we’re inspiring the next generation with our Digital Explorers event series. Young people in schools and colleges are given the chance to take part in networking, expert lectures, masterclasses and interactive workshops related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The aim is to help enhance their career prospects while showing them just how exciting a STEM career can be.
Even just the act of getting into a classroom with young people can help them excel in future careers. According to the CBI and TCS report, young people who have at least four interactions with businesses at school are five times less likely to be unemployed in later life.
The positive effects on students are clear and will ultimately have a knock-on positive effect for UK businesses and the economy.
The Digital Explorers events are just one way we’re investing in digital skills and forms part of the TCS IT Futures programme. The project was set up to combat issues of employment, engagement and inspiration in young people and has had huge success since its inception.
Over the past six years, it has inspired 300,000 young people through a range of IT challenges, coding and application design competitions, classroom teaching, STEM events and more.
The long-term aim for TCS’ investment in these initiatives is to show students the potential of careers in STEM, acting as inspiration for all they can achieve in this field.
We’re proud of what we’ve done so far but appreciate there’s still a long way for businesses to go in upskilling future generations.
Now is the time to continue building on current STEM initiatives, work with third parties and expert organizations to get the most from our investment and, most importantly, listen to the advice of young people around us.
Inspiring the next generation is the key to long-term growth and future business success – don’t overlook it!