March 4, 2008 8:36 AM PST

Survey: Generation Facebook's skills wasted at work

Survey: Generation Facebook's skills wasted at work
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The tech savvy of "Generation Facebook" is going down the drain at work, new research has found.

People who have left school in the past three years have strong confidence in their IT skills, but the organizations they work for are not always making the most of this skill set, according to database software company FileMaker, which commissioned the research.

The vast majority (82 percent) of 16- to 18-year-olds surveyed felt confident about their level of general IT skills going into the workplace--a higher percentage than those who felt confident about their interpersonal skills (64 percent).

"The generation of people coming into the workplace now have had technology around them all of their lives, so whether it's Facebook, or whether it's MSN, or whatever it might be, it's second nature to them," said Tony Speakman, regional manager northern Europe at FileMaker, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif.

To a parent, Speakman added, it may seem as though their children "seem to waste so much time on these social-networking sites. But actually what this means when they're put in front of technology in a business sense: they're in no way intimidated by it."

According to the research, 85 percent of university graduates and those who have left school learned to use PowerPoint software while in school, but only 39 percent reported using it at work. A further 88 percent learned to use spreadsheet software, but only 65 percent said they use it as part of their job.

In addition, only 51 percent said they had actively looked for creative ways to use technology at work.

Speakman warned that businesses are failing to make the most of this innate love of tech.

"We've all got e-mail, and we've all got access to the Internet, and so we probably tend to think we're completely up to date. But what we've tended to do in many businesses is we've automated a paper process rather than necessarily look at the capability of the technology that you have and ask if there are even more efficient ways to use it," he said.

Businesses should consider doing a skills audit of new recruits and updating job responsibilities to ensure roles are aligned with skills.

"If you audit the technology that you've already invested in, audit the people that you've got and the skills that they have,? Speakman said. "Then you could really start to drive some additional productivity improvements, and that goes straight to the bottom line of any business."

However, the research also found reluctance among businesses to invest in training. Just 12 percent of respondents said they had received any formal training at work, while 49 percent said they had had to make do with on-the-job or unstructured training.

"We have a culture that does not invest in training," Speakman said.

Businesses have a responsibility to drive IT skills forward as "education very much looks to business" when it comes to setting the curriculum, he added. "If we as businesses up the ante then education will follow."

The research polled 1,000 people who had left school in the past three years.

Natasha Lomas of Silicon.com reported from London.

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6 comments

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Too many business want a degree
or certifications that are, to be blunt, hellishly expensive to get. That is the main reason why the computer literate like myself are not going into the computer industry, because the education that they want is up in the high 30,000 dollar range.
Posted by Leria (585 comments )
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Expensive?
That "expensive" dollar amount of yours is about average for a 4-year degree, according to collegeboard.com, so what's the complaint? I reiterate my question by pointing out that a CS degree can easily earn twice that in annual pay shortly out of the blocks. Note, though, that mere literacy won't earn much more than a secretary's job unless you're able to snow-job an illiterate company... which many have been able to do, thus explaining the sorry state of tech in many businesses.
Posted by Tadmin (5 comments )
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Survey: Generation Facebook's skills wasted at work
Agreed. The cost of basic IT degree even at a public institution is astronomical. When looking at the "101" course levels which are needed to complete the degree - today's generation are way past that level. I know many fourth graders who are savvy with Powerpoint and Word. Employers need to recognize the true value of the young adults in the workplace.
Posted by Tippy44 (1 comment )
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Narrow view
Way past 101's? You must be talking about "IT courses" like in the MIS (or CIT as it's now called on our campus) curriculum. Why aren't all of these "savvy" students enrolled in a proper computer science degree program if they're bent on tech? Answer: because it's quite a bit harder than building a slide show or a spreadsheet or even a VB GUI. Today's "young adults" suck at tech just as much as yesterday's - they just suck at more of it.
Posted by Tadmin (5 comments )
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Outsourced.
All the corporations are outsourcing all the IT work. Of course they don't utilize IT local workforce.
Posted by hunter_jc (109 comments )
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Be real...businesses don't hire for Excel or PP experience.
First off, PowerPoint and Excel aren't IT skills, they are basic business skills. As an earlier poster mentioned, we need to define IT skills as skills like DBs, programming, and server management.

Second, no one pays people to use PowerPoint. You get paid to build an informative, educational, or persuasive presentation USING PowerPoint. Content is what's important, not design templates.

Finally, the skills that business and technology employers value often come from outside of IT/CS classes. Businesses need problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills. While we do outsource a lot, much of what we outsource is commodity activities. Solving problems and working on a project team to innovate a new product will never be outsourced. But these project team jobs won't ever go to young people who think they are technologically literate because they spend hours on facebook, try to shortcut a college or technical degree, and fail to add real value to the businesses of the future.
Posted by digitaleffection.org (2 comments )
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