If you know someone under 24, chances are you've seen them glued to their smartphone, computer, tablet, laptop, or several of them at one time. Although computer ownership varies by income, on average 88% of US teens have access to a computer and nearly 96% have a smartphone, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center. Almost half (45%) say they're online "almost constantly" — a sharp increase from the 24% who answered "yes" to that question in 2014.
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It's no surprise that generation Z — a demographic consisting of anyone born after 1997 — is one of the most technologically savvy generations since their millennial predecessors. But do their tech smarts translate into a desire for a career in technology?
To understand where gen Z-ers — also known affectionately as "zoomers" — are headed in their careers, CloudBees conducted The Future Developer Survey, a global survey targeting a portion of this newest generation. More than 1,000 18- to 24-year-olds from the US, UK, Germany, and France participated in the survey, answering questions ranging from their interest in software coding to their current coding abilities. Some of the responses were eye-opening.
The Future of Software Development
Zoomers believe that software developers will play a key business role in the next five years, with 90% of respondents saying the job will be either "important," "very important," or "critically important."
After graduating, nearly 30% of respondents say they are interested in becoming a software developer, and more than 19% said they would be attracted to a job as an IT manager with a focus on security. This is good news for the growing number of digitally transforming companies that need a steady flow of new software developers with expertise in IT security.
Most students in the survey acknowledge the value of coding in their future careers, and more than half (56%) say they plan to devote at least a portion of their coursework to coding. The draw of learning how to code varies: 39% of respondents plan to study coding so they can write code in their work; 29% say they want to know how to code because they plan to work alongside people who code; and 22% want to learn because they believe it will be a necessary skill set to thrive in the emerging global economy. Regardless, zoomers are actively educating themselves on coding — whether they plan on coding for their jobs or simply working somewhere where others are coding.
Taking the Initiative
Even though students aren't required to learn coding, gen Z students are taking the initiative anyway, according to the survey. Many (32%) said they are pursuing an education in technology just out of personal interest. For students who already know how to code, 37% mentioned they learned it online and 31% said they just figured it out on their own.
What the survey suggests is that gen Z students, perhaps more than in any other generation, are graduating college determined to enter a career with the potential to transform so many aspects of life through technology.
Still, educational institutions can do a better job of preparing students for the latest technology trends. As ideas and practices in software development are constantly evolving, schools need to find new ways to stay ahead of the curve.
But too often that's not the case. A significant portion of recent graduates in the survey say that many of the programming languages they learned in school were misaligned with what they needed for their jobs. Unfortunately, what we see is that educational institutions are unable to keep pace with the industry where coding languages come in and out of fashion. One way to address this gap would be for universities to partner with businesses to better align what students are learning with what they will need when they enter today's job market. Not only students, but their future employers will benefit as a result.
Many students also say they were short changed when it comes to the subject of IT security, with a quarter of respondents identifying security as a key topic that should have been covered but wasn't. Given the recent high profile cybersecurity breaches and the industry's growing focus on security, it's surprising that security hasn't become a core part of every tech curriculum. Indeed, the more these priorities are pushed off, the harder it will be for students to get up to speed in this rapidly evolving sector of the tech industry
Growing up in a highly digitalized landscape, gen Z-ers are no longer just passive consumers of what our software-eating world has to offer — they are on the path to building it too.