GenZ must upskill, or face challenges breaking into the tech industry

 A person using a laptop.
A person using a laptop.

Gen Z are now joining the UK’s entry-level workforce in full force – and we need to pay attention to them when looking for talent equipped to work with the latest technology. Within just a few years, under 25’s will make up over a quarter (27%) of the entry level workforce – which provides a big opportunity for any businesses looking to boost their talent pipeline.

Known as the “tech-savvy” generation who grew up online, we might think this cohort will come into the workplace totally tech literate, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, our education system isn’t keeping pace with skills needed for work, so graduates aren’t prepared for digital-first roles.

Young people themselves are aware of this too – over a third (37%) don’t think school is adequately preparing them to go and work in a digital-first world, and over half (56%) have never actually been educated in digital skills.

With all of this in mind, organizations must focus on closing the gaps in tech skills that young people face in order to keep businesses moving forwards and innovating. Once in the workforce, Gen Z can benefit from access to tools like online learning, coding bootcamps, and certification paths.

On-the-ground upskilling is needed to support traditional education

There is clearly a disconnect between the tech skills learned at university and the real-world skills needed to embrace roles in modern businesses. Through the pandemic, schools and universities were pushed to embrace more technology and go digital-first in many aspects. However, tech-focused curriculums are still often playing catch up to the innovations that are shaping the world today.

This is where online, self-paced learning can be really important – both at university and afterwards. Universities are increasingly collaborating with platforms that offer tech skills development courses as a supplement to classroom learning. These partnerships give students access to a broad range of technology topics that are most relevant to the current job market while streamlining curriculum development for professors.

Students can still benefit from seeking out upskilling resources on their own too – even outside of formal programs. Whether they are using learning to boost their course work, or taking a different path to learn a totally new topic, access to tech upskilling resources from the very start of a career journey is crucial.

Make access to bootcamps and apprenticeships a priority

Having experience is touted by employers as one of the most important ways to secure a job, but graduates will be applying for entry-level roles right out of education – so getting that experience can be a challenge. This predicament is particularly relevant in tech roles, where demonstrating proficiency in tech skills is vital. But where does one gain this valuable hands-on experience? Coding bootcamps and apprenticeships offer a potential solution.

Coding bootcamps have proven results in supporting graduates into more lucrative careers. On average, bootcamp graduates earn 56% more than their non-bootcamp peers when pursuing similar job opportunities. For some job seekers, graduating from a coding bootcamp can even replace the need for a degree, and for others they provide a pathway into a role that traditional education wouldn’t have prepared them for.

Apprenticeships can also be a valuable alternative to traditional internships, as they usually offer more hands-on and in-depth experience over a longer period of time, and are almost always paid.

For young people looking to get into the technology workforce, gaining hands-on learning experience with the technologies they’ll use in their future workplaces is crucial. In the absence of hands-on learning experiences in traditional education systems, bootcamps and apprenticeships are a strong alternative.

Getting certified also showcases skills

Gen Z can also showcase the tech skills they have by getting certifications outside of their traditional degrees. In the most in demand areas of technology - cybersecurity, cloud, and data science – these certifications can be a valuable addition to show potential employers.

There are many tech certifications on the market today so it can be hard to cut through the noise and pursue the certifications that will be most lucrative to your career. To make the right choice, students should identify the role they are most interested in pursuing and identify the skills and certifications they will need to do that particular job effectively.

In today’s competitive tech landscape, simply listing a degree in computer science or information technology won’t necessarily be enough to land a job in tech. Demonstrated mastery of the skills required for the job is what employers are looking for, and certifications give young people the needed to make their case during the hiring process.

Closing thoughts

The generation of graduates entering the workforce now are faced with a uniquely challenging work environment, especially in the tech industry. Workforce reductions and economic uncertainty have impacted the number of entry level tech jobs significantly. This is being compounded by the technology skills taught in universities quickly becoming out of date, so it’s difficult for Gen Z to equip themselves with the tech skills they need to break into the industry.

The good news is that, for many organizations, less emphasis is being placed on traditional degrees for tech jobs. Instead, employers are looking for skills. Through alternative learning pathways and supplements to university education, Gen Z has the chance to uplevel themselves into a career in tech.

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