New research shows that young people are still drawn to traditional careers. So how should technology businesses react?

New research conducted by FreshMinds and the Association of Colleges has uncovered that, despite growing up in an environment dominated by digital technology, 11 – 16 year olds are still drawn to the traditional career paths of medicine, teaching and the uniformed services. Alarmingly, this age group seems to be unaware of the new careers emerging in technology, IT and data science. Why? It all comes down to a lack of relevant information. Only 49% of children feel well-informed about the jobs available to them. And with most children turning to parents and teachers for support, it seems the advice they’re receiving is often incomplete.

Naturally, there’s an onus on schools to create greater awareness of careers in the technology sector and work to close the skills gap so that children are equipped for these new types of jobs. Michael Gove’s announcement of a new computing curriculum, which will begin at age 5 and have a strong focus on computer science, marks a step in the right direction.

But there’s also a role for companies in the emerging industries of IT, technology and data science to play. To garner interest from this age group and change their perceptions surrounding the ideal career, they’ll have to develop a better understanding of young people. Companies need to understand what’s important to this age group and leverage this knowledge if they’re to make jobs in these sectors more appealing and challenge traditional career paths. So what do young people (or millennials) look for in a job?

A sense of purpose

With new findings from The Intelligence Group showing that 64% are concerned with making the world a better place, it’s evident that millennials would prefer a job in an organisation that allows them to make a difference. This is a trend that has been clearly illustrated in our research. It’s no coincidence that the top careers – medicine, teaching and the uniformed services – are all jobs that enable employees to give back to the community. If IT, technology and data science firms want to attract millennials, they need to alter external perceptions by emphasising their purpose and contribution to wider society.

A collaborative culture

Companies with hierarchical structures and traditional ways of working just won’t cut it anymore, even if they do pay a higher salary. Millennials are looking for something more. Working for a company with a collaborative culture is high on the priority list. As is the ability to work flexibly. Young people are used to using new technology to connect, share and work with others, so it’s only logical that their working lives should reflect this too. Jobs that can meet these needs by offering flexible hours and remote working are likely to be popular with millennials.

The ability to hack

In line with seeking out career paths that provide a collaborative culture, some millennials are passionate about ‘hacking’. Now this isn’t about illegally breaking into the Home Office database. Hacking is a new approach to problem-solving, where people work together to develop fast solutions, testing and iterating their approach as they go, using their available resources and lots of creativity. Industries that are able to tap into this movement and create a work environment that fosters hacking, where team work, creativity, and constructive criticism are all encouraged, are sure to win favour amongst young people.

“When young people are looking for a sense of purpose, collaboration and a chance to problem solve in an innovative way, it’s a shame that more aren’t considering careers in the technology-dominated industries” commented Caroline Plumb, CEO of growth consultancy FreshMinds and recruitment consultancy FreshMinds Talent. “These fast-growing, technology businesses are ideal places for young people who want to work with vast amounts of autonomy and have a chance to shape a company’s future. If we want more people to aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Acton Smith, businesses within this space need to work hard to appeal to future employees as well as those shaping young people’s career choices.”

So if we are to change young people’s perceptions regarding the most desirable career paths and open their eyes to the opportunities available in fast-growing technology industries, the approach has to be two-fold. Firstly, there needs to be greater action from the government , schools and parents to provide better, more relevant career advice and to champion the skills needed to succeed in new kinds of jobs. But the industries themselves are not exempt. Firms need to develop a deeper understanding of millennials and change their culture and approach to work if they’re to make careers in IT, data science and software development more appealing to young people.