Does Not Compute: Millennials Aren't Tech Savvy

June 11, 2015

Just because millennials are glued to their tech devices doesn’t mean they know how to use them well. They may know how to take selfies, surf the web, or keep up with their social networks, but "Does Not Compute," a new research brief we are releasing today, reveals that most have a hard time solving problems using technology. That’s bad news, because technology won’t add much to the human equation if we can’t use it to solve problems. it would lose its power to supercharge productivity  and accelerate innovation. Fortunately, some of the nation's best STEM education programs are showing by example how we ensure that the next generation becomes truly tech savvy.

Our analysis of data from the 2012 Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) the problem is more far-reaching than most people realize:

58% of millennials have poor skills in solving problems with technology.

Millennials themselves are mostly in the dark about this problem. The vast majority—even those with the lowest skills—don’t believe their lack of skills has affected their career prospects:

91 percent of millennials--and 88 percent of millennials with low tech skills--believe low computer skills haven't effected their chances of getting a job, a promotion, or a raise

Millennials are almost certainly wrong. Our research shows that the ability to solve problems with technology pays off in a very big way: those at the highest skill level earn more than double what those at the lowest level earn:

Below Level 1: $2,920 per month; Level 1: 3,848 per month; Level 2: $5056 per month; Level 3: $6,622 per month.

These benefits hold up even when other factors that affect earnings are held constant. If you control for race, gender, education level—and even math and literacy skills—those with the highest tech skills earn, on average, almost 40 percent more than those with the lowest. Millennials don't know what they're missing, and it's costing them dearly.

Despite these sober statistics, our brief ends on a very hopeful note. It features six STEMworks programs that are teaching young people to solve some of the world's most pressing problems with technology. It's true that the vast majority of American young people don't have access to such programs, but an all-hands-on-deck effort by business, educators, government, and other STEM advocates can change that.

To learn more, check out our brief and the accompanying infographic: "Does Not Compute: The High Cost of Low Tech skills in the U.S.--and What We Can Do About It."

Tags: technology, jobs & workforce