Survey: Generation Facebook's skills wasted at work

Many young adults are confident in their IT skills, survey finds, but businesses are not making the most of their tech savvy.

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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