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This article was published on August 21, 2012

UK young workers’ unused digital skills estimated to be worth £6.7 billion

UK young workers’ unused digital skills estimated to be worth £6.7 billion
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

A new study conducted by ResearchBods for O2 shows that the digital skills of young people are going unused as many still face unemployment.

According to O2, the unused digital skills sitting within the community of one million unemployed young people is estimated by UK businesses to be worth £6.7 billion ($10.5bn).

O2 says that businesses are in vital need of the digital skills the younger generation have, including web design, coding and social media expertise.

The study shows that businesses expect a fifth (21%) of their growth over the next three years to come through digital channels. When asked, ‘Which skills would most help your business grow and develop?’ – the respondents said that digital skills were on a par with new business development and customer acquisition abilities.

That might sound hopeful but according to O2’s report less than 24% are planning to offer a first time job to a young person in the coming months. This doesn’t sound like it makes a lot of sense.

The young people in the study appear to have a great range of skills, it’s no so surprising as so many of young adults in the UK grew up with access to computers and the Internet. According to the study,  90% are able to use social media to promote an event, idea or cause, 66% can design a webpage,  19% can develop an app, 13% are “confident” at coding, whilst another 25% have experienced coding at some point and 36% are confident in working with databases.

No more flogging the work experience kids

Face it, graduates don’t tend to get the highest salaries and while we’re not promoting the idea that they should be used up and spat out in their first job, it does seem silly to turn down a suite of skills that come naturally if a company is lacking in those areas.

It’s possible that some companies fear taking on young and inexperienced staff, after all, a youthful wise-ass can be a mixed blessing. That said, this sort of training can be expensive when farmed out to consultancies, so it could be cost-effective to bring people on board who know what they are doing to refresh a company’s digital standing.

400 UK businesses and 1,000 UK 16-24 year olds were surveyed and those figures then appear to have been extrapolated to represent all businesses and young people in the UK, so factor in some common sense when looking at the numbers. The field work with businesses and young people took place in July and August this year.

O2 CEO Ronan Dunne said: “There are more than a million young people out of work. It’s a travesty that whilst businesses are crying out for digital skills, they are excluding from the workplace the very people who have them.”

“Now is the time when thousands of young people will be deciding what to do next. We want to encourage them to make the most of the fact that they have grown up in a digital world and be confident in the value of their skills to prospective employers. Businesses need to recognise the value that young people can bring – they are the future fuel of the economy and have the skills we need to help pull us out of recession.”

A push for youth

Naturally O2 has not commissioned this research for giggles, the telecoms company is also promoting a number of initiatives to get young people into the work place, these include: Increasing the number of paid apprenticeships and internships and digital work skills days for 3,000 16 year olds to take them through activities such as engineering and digital technology.

Along with Futura Networks, Telefonica (O2 in the UK) is hosting Campus Party in Berlin from 21-26 August, where 10,000 of Europe’s most talented minds will gather to ‘retype Europe’s source code, rebuild Europe’s digital foundations and write the plan for Europe’s digital future’.

You can read more about the study on the O2 site here.

Image Credit: jadakatt

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