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The new generation of digital natives has a lot of potential but employers need to be proactive

The new generation of “digital natives” has a lot of potential, but employers need to be proactive about unlocking it.

New research by Pareto Law shows that two thirds of small business CEOs believe that the incoming generation of workers (normally labelled GenZ or iGen) will have a positive impact on growth, with 39% of them also thinking that digital and social media knowledge is their most valuable skill.

The same research shows that productivity amongst younger workers can be boosted by 50% through a learning method known as “blended learning” – a potent mix of face-to-face and digital training.

However, ideas on how to make sure employees get that training before entering the workforce are a little less clear. There is, as yet, little dialogue amongst employers or the school system about how to collectively go about developing the younger generation’s latent abilities.

iApprentice

Changes to government regulation could provide an answer. Under the new system, small businesses can have an apprentice’s training paid for by the government. There are a number of companies now offering tailor-made “blended learning” training – including Kineo and the Online Learning Consortium.

If you combine this with the government’s collaborative approach towards the creation of new training schemes for apprentices (known as the “trailblazer” scheme), it creates a massive space for employers to craft their own workforces – if they’re quick off the mark.

Debunking the myth of the savant

You would think the offer of free training (and in many cases, £1000 grants) would have small businesses jumping at the opportunity to take on apprentices. But uptake has been slow. Too many businesses take an overly idealistic approach, seeing iGen/GenZ as a super-species of “digital natives” – delegating your social media to a young intern is a classic faux pas.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: outside of some impressive cases - such as Peter Szabo: a digital marketing guru who started his career in PPC aged 9 - there is no clear evidence that GenZ knows how to deploy its latent skills. Rates of functional literacy and numeracy in the UK among 16-19 year olds are now the lowest in the developed world. OCEN (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) rates our teenage literacy dead bottom and our numeracy superior only to that of the United States. And university applications are falling at a rate of 5% per year.

It’s up to small businesses

The risk here is that a younger generation will grow up lacking the skills they will need to make good on their natural aptitude for new technologies. Increasingly, it falls to employers to ready them for the workplace.

For more info about how to get apprentices trained on the government’s dollar, read our “How To Hire An Apprentice” article.