Boosting tech skills can super-charge social mobility and economic growth, adding £11bn to UK GDP by 2022, according to new report from BT and Accenture


A new report from BT and Accenture has found that boosting the next generation’s technology skills can super-charge social mobility and economic growth — but warns that without concerted effort from business, government and civil society, the tech revolution could create a barrier for young, less-privileged people as they enter the workforce.

  • Improving tech know-how could bring economic benefits for individuals and UK plc over the long-term
  • Socio economic background, gender and geography play a role well before people enter the workforce
  • Lack of understanding among young people about the future of work and impact of technology on jobs of the future

A new report from BT and Accenture has found that boosting the next generation’s technology skills can super-charge social mobility and economic growth — but warns that without concerted effort from business, government and civil society, the tech revolution could create a barrier for young, less-privileged people as they enter the workforce.

Based on new primary data gathered from 4,000 young people (aged 16 to 24) and 1,000 Gen Xers (aged 41 to 50) across the U.K., the study — Tech Know-How: The New Way to Get Ahead — explores how people use technology today and examines both present and future expectations. It reveals that individuals with higher levels of tech know-how earn more as their career progresses, with a ‘tech literacy wage premium’ of £10,000 per year. The implied salary increase from these tech-savvy individuals could add approximately £11 billion to U.K. GDP by 2022.[1]

However, many U.K. individuals could miss out on that potential, as attitudes to tech differ by socio-economic background. Young people whose parents have higher levels of education are 26 percent more likely to see themselves as ‘expert’ or ‘creative’ users of tech in the next five years.

Salary expectations also increase with parental education level. Young people whose parents fall into the top two education levels expect to earn salaries that are 19 percent higher than the bottom two.

The report also highlights a stark gender divide. Girls and young women could be left behind, with challenges starting at home and continuing in the classroom. Young men are 46 percent more likely to receive encouragement from friends and family to build their tech skills, and 17 percent more likely to report having had enough computer science training at school, compared to their female counterparts.

Young people in London are also 50 percent more likely to aspire to be ‘creative’ or ‘expert’ users of tech than the national average. Those in Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East displayed the lowest inclination to improve their tech capabilities.

And regardless of background, region, or gender, only 60 percent of young peopleagree that tech will change the nature of jobs over the next 5 years, while 42 percent associate ‘jobs using tech’ with sitting behind a computer screen – in sharp contrast with the realities of the future workforce where automation and AI, will play an increasingly important role.

To help address the issue of poor tech literacy skills, the report makes four recommendations:

  1. Make computational thinking – the building blocks of digital learning – the thread that runs through the school curriculum and teacher training.
  2. Show young people – and those who influence them – the role tech plays in the things they love.
  3. Ensure young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are given access to skills development and real experience of the future workplace.
  4. Invest in existing employees’ skills to ensure those at most risk from automation aren’t left behind.

BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson commented: “Giving young people the skills and confidence to thrive in the workplaces of the future, is the only way to address social mobility and secure long-term prosperity. Tackling this challenge will require the co-ordinated efforts of both the public and private sectors. Without that, we risk stifling future growth and leaving people behind. But we need to move beyond talking and now act, to ensure that young people fully understand the importance of technology and how it will shape their lives and careers.”

“We know that technology offers tremendous opportunity for economic growth, and technology skills provide a path for individuals to personally grow and flourish,” said Olly Benzecry, chairman and managing director for Accenture in the U.K. and Ireland. “Our task is to improve technology skills in the U.K. — and to make them available in an inclusive way so that all can benefit. At Accenture, we are particularly focused on these ‘skills to succeed,’ but we need to partner with the private sector, the government, the education system and parents to ensure that the opportunity is fully realised.”

On 22 Nov., the third Tech Literacy Summit will take place at the BT Tower. At the event, Gavin Patterson and Olly Benzecry will bring together senior leaders from business, government and civil society organisations to look at opportunities for better collaboration and to find a solution that will ultimately help to secure the U.K.’s prosperity.

The full report can be found here.

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About this study

BT and Accenture Strategy, in association with Oxford Economics, commissioned this research to explore the relationship between tech literacy and social mobility in the UK. It tests our shared hypothesis that individuals with higher levels of tech literacy also experience improved professional prospects and greater social mobility. We gathered primary data from 4,000 16 to 24-year-olds, in addition to 1,000 41 to 50-year-olds to provide a point of comparison with individuals further along in their careers. This was a nationally representative sample which reflects the UK’s diverse educational, occupational and income groups. This primary data was combined with a range of secondary sources to explore new connections between tech literacy and social mobility. The findings were then tested through a series of interviews with experts from the CBI, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Department for Education, and Teen Tech, to formulate recommendations for tackling the challenges identified in this study.

About Skills to Succeed

Accenture’s global Skills to Succeed programme aims to plug employment and entrepreneurship gaps using technology. Our goal is to meet this need, Accenture in the UK has focused its Skills to Succeed programme on helping disadvantaged young people to get ready for an increasingly digital economy. How we work and the skills required for the work environment are changing. Accenture in the UK has combined its learning and technology expertise to create innovative learning programmes such as the Skills to Succeed Academy and the Digital Skills platform, while its Movement to Work technology work placements are helping young people enhance their prospects for success in a digital world.

About BT’s Tech Literacy programme

BT has made a long-term commitment to build a culture of tech literacy. That means helping young people get curious about how technology actually works, be in control of it, and ultimately become active creators with it. Our first goal is to reach five million young people by 2020. We take action with our partners on three crunch-points in young people’s lives:


Primary education – the Barefoot Computing Project is a computational thinking programme for primary school children from BT and CAS. It helps primary school teachers get confident with the building blocks of tech literacy through free teaching materials and face-to-face workshops from specially trained volunteers. It has reached more than 45,000 teachers and through them 1.25 million children, and is used in 50 percent of primary schools in England (end of academic year 16/17). An Ipsos MORI study showed that teachers who use computational thinking see positive impacts on pupils’ numeracy, literacy, problem-solving and collaboration skills.


Teenage years – We’re partnering with 5Rights to find new ways to empower young people to confidently navigate the digital world.


Transition to work – BT’s Work Ready programme helps disadvantaged 16 to 24 year-olds prepare for the modern world of work, through skills development and hands-on experience of jobs powered by technology. More than 2000 young people have started a Work Ready placement, and of those who complete, more than 50 percent go on to education, training or employment. Working with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation we’re reaching even greater numbers of young people from disadvantaged inner city areas, including London, Manchester, Doncaster and Belfast.


About Accenture

Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 425,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

Accenture Strategy operates at the intersection of business and technology. We bring together our capabilities in business, technology, operations and function strategy to help our clients envision and execute industry-specific strategies that support enterprise wide transformation. Our focus on issues related to digital disruption, competitiveness, global operating models, talent and leadership help drive both efficiencies and growth. For more information, follow @AccentureStrat or visit www.accenture.com/strategy.

[1]We calculate the expected average salary in five years' time based on i) no change in tech skills and ii) the expected increase in tech skills. Taking the difference between these two estimates, we can approximate the average salary increase resulting from an upskilled emerging workforce. We then gross this up by the approximate size of the emerging workforce to generate an estimate for the economy-wide increase in salaries. Given that employee compensation is a component of total incomes generated (GDP(I)), we directly attribute the increase in salaries associated with higher tech skills to an increase in GDP. Please note that these estimates do not account for any other direct or indirect effects on GDP from an increase in tech skills.