America is failing to prepare Gen Z to enter the workforce due to a ‘glaring’ gap in tech skills

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Computer classes for Gen Z aren’t cutting it anymore. 

Many new digital tools entered the workforce recently, and while there is yet to be something as futuristic as flying cars or self-lacing shoes (as predicted in Back to the Future‘s depiction of 2015), there are still some new-fangled inventions that have been implemented. As remote work took the nation by storm during the early pandemic, digital tools like Zoom and Teams were used more frequently. And with investments pouring into artificial intelligence, the world of A.I. is also seeping into the workforce as automated programs like ChatGPT take off.

Less invested in than weird A.I. portraits or automated messaging systems that tell you everything is subjective: Gen Zers. While companies are rapidly changing to become more digitized and automated, the youngest working generation isn’t being trained adequately to deal with this new reality. 

More than a third (37%) of Gen Zers feel their school education didn’t prepare them with the digital skills they need to propel their career, according to Dell Technologies’ international survey of more than 15,000 adults ages 18 to 26 across 15 countries. A majority (56%) of this generation added that they had very basic to no digital skills education.

It’s all led to some warranted skepticism regarding the future of work: Many Gen Zers are unsure what the digital economy will look like, and 33% have little to no confidence that the government’s investments in a digital future will be successful in 10 years. Forty-four percent think that schools and businesses should work together to address the digital skills gap.

Gen Z’s skills gap could be why they feel ‘tech shame’ at work

The findings back up past research that found nearly half of the Class of 2022 felt the top skill they were underprepared for was technical skills.

It may all come as a surprise considering that Gen Z are digital natives. That means they’re often assumed to be the most technologically proficient in the workplace and assigned the work of explaining new tools to their colleagues, which stresses Gen Z out. As many as 1 in 5 young workers feel judged for having tech issues, whereas only 1 in 25 of their older peers report feeling similarly, according to a survey from HP. These tech snafus have created feelings of “tech shame” among the generation, which sometimes stops them from participating in meetings.

What little training that’s being provided is not being distributed equitably. “There’s a glaring gap in accessibility and application of tech education resources between lower-income and affluent students—a gap that was widened by the pandemic,” Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer, wrote for Fortune. “And we know this gap is more than an academic or social justice issue.”

It’s evidence of the broader skills gap prevalent in the workforce right now. The problem for Gen Z is that digital communication skills are most high in-demand. But a large portion of them are taking it upon themselves to learn more; 36% plan on acquiring digital skills in order to get a new job or keep their job, Dell finds. 

Considering that many companies aren’t equipped with the resources to handle the skills gap, the Gen Zers who do teach themselves digital skills will likely have a leg up in the job search over those who don’t.

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