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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Want to be Bill or Gareth Gates?
By Jo Twist
BBC News Online technology reporter

Not so long ago, if you asked young people what they wanted to be when they grew up, most would have said a pop star or the Prime Minister.

Pop star Gareth Gates and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates
Pop careers lose out to technology jobs

It now seems they want to be Bill Gates not Gareth Gates, according to a poll of 12 to 15 year olds.

Nearly a quarter of teenagers in the poll want to "work with computers", and a third say it is for the excitement and the money.

Only 15 per cent want to be a pop star and bottom of the list are bank managers and teachers.

Core to life

Peter Linas, development director at Parity who ran the poll, told BBC News Online he was surprised pop stars and doctors did not top teenagers' aspirations.

He says it is down to the changing image of technology.

"Technology is a core fundamental skill in the classroom and is embedded in the world we live in," he says.

"It is not seen as specialist skill anymore, it's just part of what they do. You ask a 45 year old to program the video and they would probably run into the kitchen with their head in hands saying they can't do it. My eight year old can do it though."

Teenager at a laptop
IT skills are core in the classroom now

Flash Wilson, computer expert and president of SAGE-WISE the System Administrators' Guild, wanted to be a pop star. She agrees children and teenagers are exposed to computers at a much younger age, thanks to the internet.

"Schoolkids are often found online asking for help with their homework. It's much easier to realise you have a flair for computing as a teenager nowadays," she said.

Parity, technology training and resource specialists, decided to involve schools in a poll of 100 young people after "take your daughters to work day" made them think about aspirations.

"Even at the ages of five, six and seven, they were really interested in computers so we thought we'd dig around and find out what happens once they get to 12 or 15, whether they have the same excitement at that stage," Mr Linas explains.


The gaming industry has a lot to do with the image of "exciting" technology careers, says Mr Linas, but Bill Gates' famed wealth and the dot.com boom have much to answer for too.

Many teenagers remember the explosion of successful online businesses, according to him. Despite the dot.com bubble burst though, the IT industry is still seen as "safe".

"More home users are taking up broadband for their internet connectivity, so the technology market is growing all the time", Flash explains.

"There will always be a demand for someone to programme and maintain computers, so it is a sensible and appealing career choice."

However, as TV shows like Fame Academy and Pop Idol demonstrate, some still cling onto their wild dreams of pop stardom.

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14 Aug 03  |  Technology
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19 Jun 03  |  Technology
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29 Apr 03  |  Technology
IT skills gap 'getting wider'
07 Aug 03  |  Education


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