Will the current generation of UK students shape the future of business?

I've no doubt it’s an important question to look at - and one that businesses in the UK need to address now if we are to ensure today’s students are skilled effectively. Today's students may not revolutionise the UK and the entire world (although many may think they will!), but the unique skills and characteristics they will bring to businesses will certainly make huge differences.

We've just released some research we did in time for the opening of BETT 2011, with the views of 1,000 16 to 18 year olds currently in education. We wanted to find out their thoughts on the skills they’re currently learning and what they feel is important for the future. Of course, they believe they know more about technology than their teachers and that they’re using their own home computers to learn essential ICT skills! Overall the research results highlight the need for better communication between students, teachers and businesses to ensure the next generation to enter the workforce are appropriately skilled.

The research found that 71% of the 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds surveyed agree that they learn more about technology outside of the classroom than inside it, with 58% believing that they have a greater level of understanding of IT than their teachers. The overwhelming majority of students (85%) also think that their own use of the internet outside of school provides the most important source of information about technology. And only 39% of students believe their school’s investment in technology really gives them the skills they need for future work.

For the first time, there are now four generations in the workforce: the Traditional Generation (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980) and the Millennial Generation / Generation Y (1981-1999), which creates unique challenges as each generation has its own characteristics, aspirations and preferred work styles. Microsoft’s study aims to highlight the importance of skilling the next generation due to enter the workforce and engage with today’s schools and businesses to ensure Generation Five (18 year olds and younger currently in education) integrate their IT skills into future organisations effectively.

Speaking to businesses, they too are aware of the importance of the new generation of employees they will have and ensuring they have the appropriate skills. As Dan Scarfe from Dot Net Solutions put it:

  There is a definite knowledge gap between the skills students believe they need for future employment and what businesses consider valuable.  

And the teachers too that we’ve spoken to, such as Terry Fish the head teacher at Twynham School, have realised the potential that students can bring,

  These are young people who simply look at the world in a slightly different way. Regardless of the business decisions, young people today have a greater autonomy due to their approach to the internet and communication technology. Nothing is going to change this and so we either embrace that or not. Any schools, colleges or employers that fail to adapt will be outshone by those that do in the years to come.  


The world has changed and is continuing to change. What is clear is that people are learning, communicating and working in different ways and education and businesses need to adapt in order to survive.

How ready are your students, your local employers, and your school?

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