Digital skills

22 September 2013

Unemployment is a blight on this generation of youth: around 1 million unemployed in the UK in the 16-25 age cohort, while unemployment is in the 40-50% range in this cohort in southern Europe and the Americas.

What makes this generation of unemployed youth completely different from the generation of the last recession (1990-91) is that this generation is composed largely of digital natives. They have grown up with digital technology and understand its usage and opportunities instinctively, compared to the older digital migrants who are already engaged with the economy.

Some commentators feel this level of youth unemployment is simply due to our position in the economic cycle. However, at Fronesys we believe that the economic cycle is intertwined with deep-seated structural change caused by two significant factors: 1) the changing nature of work and 2) the lack of appropriate skills among the youth to function as economic agents in the new economic landscape.

Fronesys is working with partners and clients to develop training and education programs that help young people play an active role in the digital economy, outside and beyond the traditional employment model.

Specifically, Fronesys is:

Investigating the role of entrepreneurship education for non-entrepreneurs
Developing training programs that integrate three different types of digital economy skills
While many think of digital skills purely with regard to coding and software skills, at Fronesys we view digital skills down three different dimensions:

network collaboration skills: using digital technologies to connect, join, fuse, and bring together people, ideas, opportunities, means and resources across boundaries of time and space
value creation skills: using lean start-up principles to understand and drive the processes of idea development, hypothesis testing, customer interaction and value creation
functional skills: the digital economy needs more than just people with software skill; in fact, it is grounded on a confluence of three types of skills – technological, management and business, and design skills
New ways of working

One significant impact of the widespread adoption of ICT is that employment no longer grows in line with revenue. The industrial age model of employment is being eroded with some white-collar and back office jobs disappearing forever, thanks to a potent combination of outsourcing, globalisation and investments in technology.

However, our education systems in the West are still focused on “producing” young people who can work as employees in companies. This may have worked when we needed educated youngsters to populate our companies, but it feels inappropriate today.

Unfortunately, our young people are emerging on to the job marketplace without many of the skills needed to participate and engage with the digital economy. The training they have got (at increasing expense, thanks to student fees, etc.) is increasingly inappropriate – they are not prepared or equipped to operate as independent economic actors / agents who can function in a networked collaborative world. Instead, what we see is growing youth unemployment.


A Shift in Perspective – How Universities Create Value

Jyoti Banerjee, partner at Fronesys, highlights that by adopting the principles of integrated thinking and reporting, universities can move away from a focus on reporting short term financial metrics to a multi-stakeholder approach which offers compelling narratives about their value.