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Thrown in at the deep end: nurturing a digital generation

Millennials may well have grown up in a world surrounded by technology, mobile phones and social media, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re equipped with the digital skills many modern careers demand of them. Marjun Ziarati looks at how we can prepare young people to help bridge this skills gap.

With the millennial generation (a term typically referring to those born between 1980 and 2000) expected to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, discussing ways to improve young people’s transferable digital skills is a hot topic. According to a 2016 report by the House of Commons, almost 90% of new jobs require some digital skills, with 72% of employers saying they’re unwilling to interview candidates who don’t have basic computing skills.

In fact, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee reports that the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year.

In her guest blog post for Parent Zone, Sheila MacNeill, senior lecturer in digital learning at Glasgow Caledonian University, talks about working together to furnish young people with the digital skills needed in both higher education and future employment.

Here, Parent Zone interviews young professionals to find out their views on the relevance of digital skills in their chosen careers. They offer advice to adults to pass on to young people, helping them prepare for a more digital experience at university and beyond.


‘Nowadays children seem more technologically capable than I was or perhaps am now, but it’s channeling that into useful skills and software aside from social mediaʼ

Joanne Chillingworth (32) chartered senior flood risk analyst


Tell us about your job

Jonathan Girven, 31, chief technical officer (CTO) of Pixology Ltd, London, UK

I co-founded a tech company. We currently have two apps that use innovative technologies and artificial intelligence. One is an extreme sports video platform with an intelligent video editor that understands your motion whilst you’re riding. The other is a video collaboration app for teams, it simplifies the collection and sharing of content across distributed teams and allows businesses to create user-generated content.

Joanne Chillingworth, 32, chartered senior flood risk analyst, JBA Consulting, Coleshill, UK

I manage projects for the Environment Agency, specialising in flood risk management studies and carrying out Strategic Flood Risk Assessments. 

Alice Young (32) senior broadcast journalist for the BBC News at Six and Ten, London, UK

I’m often more simply known as a producer. It’s my responsibility to look after the overall production of news pieces: the editorial content, what the piece looks like; the interviewees, the script and the production techniques and graphics used.  

Sebastiano Russo (35) automotive designer, Audi Exterior Design Team, Ingolstadt, Germany

I’m a car designer. We create production and show cars and we also design futuristic models including electric and autonomous vehicles to help provide solutions for future urban problems.


‘Yes, (the digital world) can provide entertaining opinions, gossip and social updates, but it’s also important for research, facts, studies and peer-reviewed informationʼ

Alice Young (32) senior broadcast journalist

What sort of digital skills do you use daily?


My work varies hugely on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few skills I use regularly:

  • Writing Python code to build the foundation of our products on servers.
  • Java / Android development for our two Android apps.
  • Code review.
  • Designing and implementing websites.
  • Building artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to understand data.


I use my digital skills for:

  • Sourcing contributors online - both experts and case studies. 
  • Researching stories, finding facts and background information online.
  • Using digital news wires to get current and accurate news.
  • Sourcing footage and images being made available online that are not automatically fed to our picture desks. 
  • Using social media to monitor developing stories.
  • Sending and receiving footage between the newsroom in London and newsrooms and picture editing laptops across the world.  


‘The better your digital skills, the more likely your designs are to be selected at presentationsʼ

Sebastiano Russo (35) automotive designer


How do you think digital education could be improved for young people today? What would you like to see more of in schools and colleges?


I work in a world where facts matter, so I'd like to see a resetting of young people’s understanding of what the digital world can offer. Yes, it can provide lots of interesting and entertaining opinions, gossip and social updates, but it’s also important for research, facts, studies and peer-reviewed information that can enrich their lives. 


There are many online courses for learning computer science, if you’re determined to get out there and look for them. There are some fantastic, interactive sites like and, where you can create websites and programs with tuition as you go along.


Basic office skills need to be covered to prepare students for working life. For example, Microsoft Office skills (Word, Excel, how to create a presentation in PowerPoint etc.), how to navigate Windows Explorer, Outlook emails and calendars and Windows 10. And of course, how to use the web for research.


What specific digital skills would a young person who wants to get into your career need?


To get into a startup as a technical person, it’s more about having a solid foundation in one or two programming languages and then being able to demonstrate a drive to learn new skills. The technologies we use are developing so rapidly, you will never stop learning new things. Web development is a good place to start with HTML, CSS and Javascript.


It would be helpful to be able to use all the Microsoft Office applications, online mapping skills preferably, but you can learn this on the job. Modelling can be learnt on the job, but any experience at university or as part of a MSc would help. Also, learning how to process data from hard drives and zip folders using Excel.


The digital skills required to work in television news are vast. They would need to have a good understanding of how to use their digital skills to source information, facts, people and footage extremely quickly, efficiently and accurately. 


‘Having access to even the most basic computers, or a Raspberry Pi, can allow a child to start learning to programʼ

Jonathan Girven (31)  tech company co-founder and chief technical officer 


What advice do you have for parents and teachers who want to help make sure young people have the digital skills required by future employers?


Most industries use similar programs for data, email and calendars. Introduce young people to some of these in advance.  If there is a specific digital requirement, perhaps encourage them to take a course. Nowadays children seem more technologically capable than I was or perhaps am now, but it’s channeling that into useful skills and software aside from social media.


I grew up surrounded by various gadgets, so always had an interest in the technology industry; I’m sure that helped. Having access to even the most basic computers, or a Raspberry Pi, can allow a child to start learning to program. Then you just need an idea for a simple task that could be made easier.


If you have a ‘dream’ job, the earlier you start learning how to use the various digital programs needed the better you will be at the end, and the more fun you will have knowing that you have full control of your skills - especially if one day your design is chosen for a production model!


Image: Thomas Morris, Flickr