Tech & Kids

What skills do kids need for future technology?

Experts share insights about the skills children and parents need to prepare for future technology.

How is technology changing?

Did you know that 65% of children will do jobs that don’t even exist yet?

This makes it very hard for teachers and parents to prepare children for the world of work. However, it’s not impossible, says Becky Patel, Head of Education at Tech She Can. The first thing is to understand what is changing.

Technology is majorly impacting future careers across all industries. It’s transforming job roles, creating new career opportunities and demanding new skills.

Becky explains a few ways that tech is shaping future careers:

Automation and AI

You might have heard about ChatGPT in the news. It’s a computer programme that can answer questions or even have conversations with you. There is a lot of debate about its unethical use such as students using it to write essays. However, many people use it every day at work, especially to eliminate repetitive tasks. Some companies already use it to draft legal contracts or even write articles!

Learn more about artificial intelligence here.

Digital transformation

Many industries are already completely transformed because of technology. A clear example is online shopping rather than visiting the high street or supermarket. These kinds of digital transformations will likely continue, leading to an increase in demand for people with skills in digital marketing, data analysis and cyber security.

Tech She Can’s live assemblies, available on demand at any time, explain how new tech is used and introduces children to a range of exciting jobs they could do in the future.

Emerging technologies

The pace of change is rapid within fields like cyber security, the cloud, drones, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Our short animations introduce these concepts in a way that help spark children’s curiosity. They are also great for helping parents and teachers feel confident about talking to children about these subjects.

Learn more about immersive learning through extended reality in the metaverse.

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What tech careers are there?

A barrier to some children entering fields of technology might include a lack of awareness. Children could struggle to become a cyber analyst or cloud engineer if they have never heard of those roles.

Additionally, while some careers in technology will require specific technical skill, some — like a project manager for a tech company, for example — require transferable soft skills. Those types of careers are often overlooked as belonging to the tech industry.

The types of careers below are some examples of what children can get into. However, these are only a small portion of tech careers available. If your child is interested in the prospect of career in tech, talk to them about their interests and skills to work out what they might want to work towards.

You might also find inspiration through these on-demand lesson resources from Tech She Can.

What is Tech She Can?

Tech She Can is on a mission to inspire more children, especially girls, to consider a future career in tech. Its programme of free educational resources, called Tech We Can, works to inspire boys and girls to be curious about tech.

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Engineering

What kinds of engineers work in tech?

  • Software engineer: designing, developing and maintaining computer programmes.
  • Machine learning engineer: creating algorithms that let computers learn and make predictions about any number of things. Machine learning is a part of Artificial Intelligence.
  • Cloud engineer: designing and creating applications that others can use to store data and files in ‘the cloud’. Examples of cloud-based technologies include Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive.
  • AI engineer: developing new artificial intelligence technologies like ChatGPT or developing systems like chatbots and algorithms.
  • Quality assurance engineer: Testing new digital products and software to make sure they are safe and meet important standards.

Writing and creating

What kinds of careers in tech are creative?

  • Writer: writing for brands, including websites, social media and more. Aspiring authors might even write and self-publish ebooks across different platforms.
  • Digital artist: creating works of art with digital tools that can support new apps, video games and other forms of entertainment.
  • Content creator: analysing trends and audience habits to create content that informs or entertains. It usually requires understanding of marketing and other areas like photography or videography.
  • Digital animator: working with different technologies to create animation for TV, movies and video games.
  • Web designer: creating websites that look nice and function well for whatever purpose.
  • Games designer: creating video games across different platforms, including mobile, PC and console. This might include creating the story and appearance or tone of a game.

Science

What kinds of scientists work in tech?

  • Computer scientist: researching different areas related to computing, including AI, machine learning, data systems and software development.
  • Data scientist: analysing data from different digital sources for a variety of purposes, including finding trends and patterns to help with decision-making within companies.
  • Robotics scientist: researching and developing robotics to support areas like automation.
  • Cognitive scientists: those who research how the mind works and how humans interact with technology. This can help web developers and others in tech create tools and systems that support people’s needs.
  • Astronomers: scientists who work with space technology such as telescopes, sensors and exploratory machines to better understand outer space.
  • Neuroscientist: using technology to research and understand the human brain. They might also contribute to the development of new tech systems to help support scientists’ understanding of how brains work and heal.

What skills do children need?

Technology can open doors for children, not only in terms of skills but potential future careers, says Andy Robertson.

Children are often told that they need to prepare for careers that don’t yet exist. While there is some truth in this, there’s a lot we do know about the skills and technology that will make them employable in the future.

How and when to use digital tools

Learning to use new tools like ChatGPT and related large language models is sometimes seen as a way of avoiding the hard work of writing essays or research. However, technology like this actually develops useful understanding and knowledge about ways of working that are highly useful to employers. For example, knowing how and when to use ChatGPT to save time or to help plan could prove a valuable skill to some companies.

The key is knowing when a particular technology is useful to aid work in an area, and when it’s less useful. For example, ChatGPT is really good at clarifying and reducing text you provide it, but it is less good at consistently and accurately finding detailed information itself.

Because anyone can access this technology for free via a web browser, it makes learning accessible to a wide range of learners. What’s important is the guidance and encouragement of teachers and parents when children show an interest in these areas. Incorporating these tools in the learning process, or setting fun tasks for children at home, can open the door to new knowledge and abilities useful for those future job opportunities.

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Research Rescue from Digital Matters

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Media literacy and digital resilience

Media literacy is about understanding and using information. For children, this could include the ability to recognise when something requires fact-checking. It might also include thinking before they share, problem-solving and knowing when to seek help.

Additionally, digital resilience — the ability to handle and recover from issues faced online — is important for kids navigating the online world. The ability to recognise a problem and use available tools to solve it not only keeps their digital space positive but will help them thrive and adapt in new situations.

‘Soft’, non-technical skills

While it would make sense to expect skill-building in technology to require technology, that’s only part of it. Soft skills like communication, working with others and adapting to new situations easily also support a career in tech.

A web developer, for instance, needs to have technical skill as well as the ability to work with a team to reach a shared goal. They need good communication skills so they can share progress, ask questions and move forward with projects.

As children face new experiences, a willingness to adapt, learn and recognise where they need to upskill will help them succeed whatever their goal.

Do parents have the right skills?

As adults and even children, we are not taught ways of learning digital, says Rich Burn.

CEO Liz Williams from Future Dot Now highlighted this point recently when she was invited to Westminster to discuss the digital skills gap. “Culturally, it needs to change,” she said. “We just assume that if we give somebody something, that’s easy to use, that they’ll be able to work it out. This needs to change, we need to train them in it.”

So, none of us are taught digital. Yet, as adults, we are thrust into the digital world, whether that be in our social lives or at work. Some of us adopt the transitions in tech and digital with enthusiasm but many do not.

Why do some adults struggle?

When it comes to technology, its misuse might come down to:

  • Fear: Many have fear: fear of change, fear of misunderstanding, fear they are behind others.
  • Lack of motivation: Many don’t feel motivated to use technology and might ask why they need to understand it.
  • Mistrust: Many adults don’t even trust tech.

If children grow up with ‘easy to use’ technology, they might develop gaps in digital skills when it comes to more complex tech. They then become adults who lack confidence to handle new tech in the workplace and beyond.

How could this impact children?

Parents are not inclined to positively reinforce anything they fear or don’t trust themselves, says Rich. Parents and adults who work with children need to reflect on their own digital literacy. If they themselves don’t think about their own positive and negative interactions, adjusting their use of technology accordingly, they might struggle to pass these skills on to their children.

In fact, Internet Matters research shows that parents who feel more confident online are more likely to see the positives of the internet.

How to develop skills to support children

Rich Burn offers the following suggestions to support adults in helping prepare children for a tech-filled future.

Engage with the same content

Engage with the same content that interests your children. Be present and try to understand as much as possible about the digital landscape your child interacts with to support greater understanding.

This could look like joining in with online gaming, or using the same social media platforms. It means you get to understand how the apps and platforms work and the pitfalls to avoid. Additionally, you gain insight into the positives within these online spaces.

As parents, we can’t shy away from technology or the digital world. We have to adapt and learn to embrace it. After all, it will only grow and become an even more present part of the next generation’s lives.

Learn about playing video games with your child here.

Keep up open communication

Keep talking to your child about how they use their online spaces and why.

For example, your child might want to create content for platforms like YouTube or TikTok. After all, it’s a fun activity to do with their friends. However, do they understand the implications of posting content online? Do they know the potential harms or how to handle them?

Discussing these interactions not only helps a child think critically about their digital space; it also helps you learn about platforms and your child’s knowledge on dealing with issue. An open, positive narrative allows both parties to adapt and remain ‘in control’ of their digital lives.

See advice to start conversations about your child’s digital life.

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5 tips to build kids' skills in tech

Becky Patel from Tech She Can shares steps below that parents can take to help prepare children for the future

Encourage curiosity

Foster a love for learning, exploration and problem-solving. Encourage children to ask questions and seek answers independently.

Introduce technology

Provide access to age-appropriate technology and educational resources. Encourage hands-on exploration and experimentation with coding, robotics and digital tools. Both parents and teachers can use our lesson packs, whether they know a lot about tech or little.

Use role models

Introduce children to inspiring individuals in tech-related fields through books, documentaries or using our role model videos, which feature women early on in their tech careers talking about their career paths and what they love about working in tech.

If a child sees someone like them in a career, they are more likely to see themselves in that same career. This is especially important for children who might not see these examples in their day-to-day life.

Support STEM education

Advocate for high-quality STEM education in schools and seek out extracurricular programs or workshops that promote tech skills. You can also request that a Tech We Can champion visits your school to deliver an inspirational lesson.

Focus on soft skills

Help children develop strong communication, teamwork, adaptability and critical thinking skills, as these are valuable in any career. As tech rapidly advances and changes, employers look for passion and willingness to learn new things, often above tech-specific skills.

Meet the experts

Get more insight into the expertise of each contributor to this guide.

Headshot of Digital Skills Partnership Manager at Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Rich Burn.
Rich Burn

Digital Skills Partnership Manager

Rich Burn describes himself as “a marketeer at heart with a passion for helping deliver digital SME Support and Skills projects across multiple regions. I look at the ‘human’ element in digital and how we all navigate work and life through a digital lens.”

Rich currently works with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to help bridge the Digital Skills gap.

Helpful links from Rich

Headshot of Becky Patel, Head of Education and Learning at Tech She Can.
Becky Patel

Head of Education and Learning at Tech She Can

I have over 10 years teaching experience at both a primary and secondary school level. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Tech She Can team since 2019 and I lead on the creation and delivery of our Tech We Can educational resources.

I’m extremely proud of how far the Tech We Can resources we offer to teachers, parents and students has grown over the past few years. I’m passionate about ensuring all children and young people broaden their knowledge of the opportunities available to them in technology careers. Children can’t aspire to be what they don’t know exists, and this is where Tech We Can plays such an important role.

You can follow Tech She Can on Twitter or Facebook. Or, sign up to their newsletter.

Headshot of games expert Andy Robertson.
Andy Robertson

Family tech expert

Andy Robertson has three children and has written about technology for families for 15 years. He is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC and wrote the Taming Gaming book for parents alongside the Family Gaming Database.

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