Tech-Savvy Millennials Aren't Really Tech-Smart

We all know just how savvy millennials are when it comes to all things tech. We see and hear it all the time. Millennials are carrying around their iPhones, sporting wearables and living and breathing through social media. But does this really equate to being tech-smart? 

See Also: How to Build Your Digital Skills for Tomorrow 

A new report by Change the Equation, a non-profit literacy organization in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, found that most millennials are inadequate in tech skills that boost workplace productivity. The report, released Wednesday, discovered that 58 percent of millennials have failed to be significantly adept at tech skills. 

This is befuddling because about 83 percent of millennials use digital media about 35 hours each week. Essentially, the report authors, who used data from Neilsen and ETS, note that being digital native does not equate to being tech-savvy. Researchers warn this could hurt millennials in the future, particularly in a technically advanced global economy. 

Don’t tell that to millennials, though. Ninety-one percent millennials say a paucity of computer skills have not diminished their chances at employment opportunities. However, 88 percent of those with such low computer skills maintain this opinion. 

Moreover, of the 19 countries that participated in the study, the U.S. ranked dead last. 

"Simply being able to use a smartphone or Facebook isn’t enough. To be successful in a global economy, our children must become fluent in the technologies that are  revolutionizing our lives and our work, and how best to use them to innovate," the report stated. "By wisely integrating technology into how children learn, STEMworks  programs are changing the equation for our young people." 

Other Findings Agree: Millennials Need to do Better 

Change the Equation isn’t the only organization to make this discovery. In the last few years, we have quickly realized that this dependency on tech isn’t the same as being proficient at it. 

Earlier this year, 23 countries took part in the PIAAC test, which was developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The objective of the test was to understand how equipped or unprepared today’s 16 to 65 professionals are in a modern society. The SAT-like test looked at the thinking capabilities and workplace skills of adults, which also honed in on literacy, math and tech problem-solving skills. 

What were the results? Well, when it comes to millennials, the results were quite abysmal: 

  • In literacy, U.S. millennials only scored higher than three countries. 
  • In math, U.S. millennials ranked last. 
  • In tech, U.S. millennials were second-last. 

Surely, this is an isolated incident, and other polls must suggest millennials are better at technology than that. Unfortunately, that just isn’t an accurate statement as other reports corroborate this data. 

Chris Pope, senior director of strategy at technology services company ServiceNow, told Time magazine that there is a massive digital gap within the millennial age group. Although they have been accustomed to using social media and their smartphones, they haven’t had to spend an ample amount of time utilizing Microsoft Excel or emails. 

"Many are only introduced to those tools when they enter the workforce and have to change their natural way of engaging to better match the way everyone else in the enterprise is working,” Pope stated. “In many ways, Gen Y have to go backwards to use less efficient technology in the office than they use in their personal lives.” 

The article also cited one study that found only seven out of 30 research participants could perform a "well-executed" Google search. If today’s generation can’t even execute a Google search then how will they conduct administrative tasks in the workplace? 

This is embarrassing news for millennials. The Generation Y population is the first digital native group in world history. We grew up looking at computer screens, playing Minesweeper and texting. Why can’t we produce spreadsheets? Perhaps it’s because technology has been too "dumbed" down so that anyone could use it. Whatever the case, millennials will have to do better, whether it’s in coding, data analytics or engineering. 


Change the Equation