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Aussie teens empowered by tech but held back by career options

18 Nov 2019

Australian teenagers believe that technology is a force for good that will have a major impact on their lives – even more so as they grow older.

That’s according to research from tech trade association CompTIA, which published a report called International Youth Perspectives of Technology and Careers recently. It surveyed more than 1500 teenagers (ages 13-18) from 11 different countries, including Australia.

The report says that 54% of Australian teenagers believe that technology in a positive direction compared to 13% who feel that tech is heading in a negative direction and 33 per cent who are unsure. Globally, 54% of teenagers feel positive, 11% negative and 35% are unsure.

Factors contributing to the positive feelings include the expectations that innovation and technology breakthroughs could drastically improve lives; offer more choices to meet the needs of just about everyone; produce apps and devices that are faster, better and more feature rich; and narrow the “digital divide” by providing access to more information and services to more people.

The report also found that 69% of teens show some awareness of automation and how it could change the future of work.

When it comes to working in the field, 45% of Australian teens surveyed would consider a career in technology – only slightly lower than the global figure of 50%.

Despite less than half being interested in a tech career, they are positive about what a tech job involves; namely problem solving, doing interesting and fun work; and earning a good salary.

What’s holding Australian teens back? A lack of understanding, limited job opportunities, and a lack of affordable training are some of the reasons.

According to the report, 35% of Australian teenagers are of the opinion that they lack the preparation and exposure to technology in high school or college that would prepare them for a career.

A like percentage believe there are limited job opportunities in technology in their local area. Slightly more than one-quarter of teens cite the lack of affordable schooling and training options; and feel the technology field is too competitive and difficult to enter.

“It’s encouraging to see that a sizeable percentage of young people see tech as a viable career option,” says CompTIA president and CEO Todd Thibodeaux, “But it’s also quite apparent that we still have work to do to correct misperceptions about tech occupations and to provide career instruction and resources that reflect the reality of the 21st Century tech workforce.”

“Teens astutely anticipate the need for more training and hands-on experience in various technology disciplines to ensure that they are well positioned for the workplace of tomorrow,” adds CompTIA research and market intelligence senior manager Anna Matthai.

Despite many efforts to curb gender bias in the tech industry, teenagers are still facing it from their parents, teachers, peers, and others.

Boys in Australia received notably higher levels of encouragement from parents, teachers, peers and other to consider a career in tech than girls did (55% for boys vs. 33% for girls).

When teens were asked about specific career opportunities in tech, the most popular choices were designing video games, working in emerging technologies, such as robotics, running a tech business and working in cybersecurity.

“These are all great career choices, but there are many more job roles in tech that provide the opportunity to earn a good salary, take on new and greater responsibilities and, most importantly, have a positive impact on society,” says Thibodeaux.

“We need to expand our outreach to get that message out to the next generations of workers.”