olly - Fotolia

Only 9% of parents want kids to be tech entrepreneurs

Study shows UK parents would prefer their children to have a traditional job such as doctor, teacher or lawyer

Parents would prefer their children to be doctors, teachers or lawyers when they are older, as opposed to technology entrepreneurs, according to research.

A study by Nominet found that only 9% of parents would like their children to choose a career as a tech entrepreneur, web developer or computer games developer.

When gender was considered, parents were more likely to steer boys than girls towards a technology career – 13% of parents said they would want their son to pursue a career as a tech entrepreneur or games developer, whereas these roles did not appear at all in the top five roles that parents suggested for girls.

A career as an engineer was the top choice of parents for boys to pursue in the future, whereas a quarter or parents hoped girls would become doctors – and only 6% hoped their daughters would become tech entrepreneurs.

Eleanor Bradley, COO of Nominet, said the UK had the potential to be a hub for tech in the future as it begins to grow its digital economy, but parents needed to encourage their children into technology roles for these efforts to succeed.

“Parents are one of the greatest influences on their children’s future decisions, much more than they perhaps give themselves credit for, and I encourage everyone to help all young people – and especially girls – to consider the possibilities the tech industry has to offer,” said Bradley.

The UK IT industry is currently suffering from a skills gap, and the government has tried to develop a bigger pipeline of young people with relevant skills by introducing the computing curriculum in 2014, making it compulsory for children between the ages of five and 16 to learn concepts such as computational thinking.

Many parents are beginning to understand the importance of computing skills, with 45% in the study thinking computing studies will give children useful skills to have after they leave school.

But parents think soft skills, such as conversational and literacy skills, will be more important for their children’s future careers, and only 19% of parents think coding skills will be important for future jobs.

Read more about science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem)

  • More assistance should be given to teachers to encourage children into Stem careers, says Ada College head of computer science.
  • Influencers within the Stem sectors describe the problems preventing children from pursuing Stem careers, and how they might be fixed.

Many dispute whether so much emphasis should be put on coding in the computing curriculum while disregarding the need for soft skills, but it is generally agreed that everyone will need a basic level of digital skills in the future. People lacking digital skills is reckoned to be costing the UK government about £63bn a year.

But parents think boys are more likely than girls to need digital skills, with 22% of parents saying IT coding skills will be important for boys and only 16% saying the same for girls.

Boys are also more likely to be given unsupervised access to the internet at home, with 73% of parents admitting to giving boys “free rein” on internet connected devices, whereas 65% of girls were allowed the same privilege.

Dads are often seen as less of a barrier for girls attempting to pursue a technology career than mums, and the Nominet research found dads are more likely to encourage children to attend tech-based after-school activities in general.

Only 4% of mothers said they encouraged their children to join after-school activities involving technology compared with 11% of fathers, but parents are still more likely to push their children to take up more traditional extra-curricular activities, such as dance, music classes or football.

Read more on IT education and training