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The UK technology industry needs to make sure it inspires young people to pursue careers in technology if it hopes to have an innovative future, claimed Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries.
During the launch of Salesforce’s new London Innovation Centre, James said the government hopes for the UK to be a good place to “start and grow a digital business” and that it is vital for young people to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) fields.
She emphasised to some young people in attendance at the opening of the centre – who were from a modern free school in Stratford called School 21 – that because of the pace of change, considering technology as a career now will set them up for a “good future”.
“We need to inspire the young people at School 21 – and other schools in that age group – to look first at careers in tech, because jobs in tech are growing two and a half times faster than the rest of the economy,” said James.
But Andrew Lawson, executive vice-president and general manager for the UK at Salesforce, said as many as 50% of people “fall into” the technology industry rather than actively seek out a career in it.
He claimed this is one of the challenges the technology industry faces in trying to encourage young people to consider Stem careers, because many young people do not consider they might want to work for a technology company in the future.
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Many young people are not encouraged by parents and teachers to pursue a career in Stem – usually because it is not well known what different types of roles and careers are available in the field.
“You can have a great, fulfilling career in our industry,” said Lawson. “So really push hard on those Stem subjects.”
He also said it is important to learn from the younger generation what the next important technologies are going to be, and that a number of young people will end up working in roles that do not exist yet.
Peter Schwartz, senior vice-president of strategic planning at Salesforce, used cloud technologies as an example of this. Not too long ago, he said, “none of us would have been employed in cloud computing because it didn’t exist”.
Schwartz also said the idea that automation will end up taking people’s jobs is a common misconception that people have had since technology first started disrupting industries. “This is a fear that has happened again and again,” he said.
Many believe that to avoid job automation in the technology industry there should be an emphasis on more creative skills, as these will be harder to automate.