Meet the high school graduates who are avoiding degrees for digital jobs

Thousands of young adults will take the big step into college this month, while others are avoiding freshman week because of jobs.

A growing number of school leavers are being hired by companies that prioritize digital skills over qualifications, including high school diplomas and degrees.

While Gen Z may be familiar with social media, many lack basic computing skills like creating a spreadsheet, new research from BT Group reveals.

But the right digital skills can be just as attractive to employers as a degree.

We hear from high school graduates who have used their tech skills to land top jobs with their tech skills.

Anthony Ogbanufe decided against studying and opted for a digital apprenticeship at BT

Anthony Ogbanufe decided against studying and opted for a digital apprenticeship at BT

I used my gaming skills to secure an apprenticeship

Anthony Ogbanufe, 25, from London, scared his mother to death when he told her he was going straight to work after school.

“For her, success meant taking the usual university route.”

After studying sports, it became clear to him that he neither wanted to pursue a sporting career nor the traditional route to university.

After graduating from school, he secured an apprenticeship with BT “and my mum quickly came up with the idea.”

While entering the professional world may seem a daunting prospect for many school leavers, Anthony found it a natural progression given the digital skills he had acquired over the years.

“Knowing a little bit about graphic design helped me a lot and I could easily use computers for different things, like design software.”

“Also because I was a big gamer it helped me because I could understand how things should work well for users and it gave me intuitive insights into the design which was useful when I was using the BT Gaming wanted to redesign the site.”

Upon completing his education, Anthony was asked to join the team on a permanent basis and became a product designer before joining AA as a digital product designer.

“By entering the professional world directly, I was able to learn a lot and earn a salary at the same time,” he says.

“Many think that university is the only path to success, but I have found that by leveraging digital skills I could embark on…a unique and fulfilling career path.”

My technical understanding helped me with my first job as an accountant

Laura Jenkinson has found that her technical skills have helped her as an aspiring accountant

Laura Jenkinson has found that her technical skills have helped her as an aspiring accountant

Despite getting good grades, 22-year-old Laura Jenkinson from Stroud decided to skip college to pursue a career as an accountant.

Aside from the high fees, Laura found sticking to a degree program limiting when she wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue.

She now works at Randall & Payne, her second accounting firm since leaving school where she is studying for her accountancy exams.

While learning basic skills in IT classes at school, Laura found that applying those skills in the real world helped improve her skills. Now she’s found that it’s become one of her greatest strengths.

“It took me a while to figure things out, but I was glad I stuck to my goal.” “In my first position, my technical understanding helped me a lot – it was something I was in could bring in the job when I had no experience.”

“My colleagues are looking for people like me, straight out of school, to do the internship I’m doing.”

“Since I’ve been working here, they say that digital skills and the practical experience of another job are more valuable than three years of theory classes at university.”

Digital skills as good as a degree, say employers

Danielle Holmes believes everyone needs basic digital skills

Danielle Holmes believes everyone needs basic digital skills

Laura’s employees aren’t the only ones who prioritize digital skills over degrees.

Danielle Holmes founded her company Black Nova Designs eight years ago with her husband Kyle and believes that basic digital skills are the key to success for young people.

“Today, no matter what industry you work in, digital skills are not just a “nice-to-have” but a mandatory requirement.”

She considers basic skills such as e-mail management or knowledge of how to use Microsoft to be essential: “You could be a mechanic or a hairdresser; “In the digital age, you still need basic technical skills.”

Research by BT Group shows that almost 80 per cent of business leaders said their reliance on computer skills will increase in the years to come.

As a result, three-quarters of UK CEOs say business-related digital skills are often as good as a degree.

“For me, it’s all about initiative.” While qualifications are important, they’re not the be-all and end-all,” says Danielle. “A person could have 100 degrees, but if they lack basic digital skills and a willingness to learn, I wouldn’t hire them.”

“What really impresses me is when someone goes beyond their formal qualifications and shows a real thirst for knowledge.”

According to a study by BT Group, 79 percent of companies found that an employee who gained additional digital skills stood out among similar candidates.

Dave Fishwick

Although familiar with social media, the TikTok generation often struggles with basic computer skills.

More than half of the managers stated that young people often struggle with simple tasks such as creating a spreadsheet, composing a professional email or using workplace software.

Danielle says: “Some basic digital skills are taught in schools, but as an IT professional I can tell you that the programming and software they use are outdated and do not correspond to real-world applications.”

BT has partnered with Fast Futures to help close the digital skills gap in the UK. For 18-24 year olds who want to learn digital skills, visit

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Drew Weisholtz

Drew Weisholtz is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Drew Weisholtz joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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