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Millennials aren't as tech savvy as people think

Millennial computer
Luis Alvarez | Getty Images

It turns out the first digitally native generation may not be all that tech-smart. (Tweet This)

A report by the nonprofit Change the Equation, which focuses on science, tech, engineering and math literacy, shows that some 58 percent of millennials have failed to master tech skills that help increase workplace productivity. The number is more surprising given that they spend 35 hours per week using digital media, the report states.

"This current generation of young people has never lived without tech," said Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation. "It's second nature to them."

Yet, using technology for social reasons doesn't make a person adept at using it in other settings, she said.

"Information drenches society," Rosen said. "Part of being technology savvy is being able to organize it so you can wrap your head around it."

The data is based on the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies conducted by the OECD.

The OECD ranks technology skills in four different levels—below level one, and levels one, two and three—with level two being a "minimum standard" for "access to professional and social benefits."

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A full 19 percent of millennials fall into the "Below Level 1" category, indicating that they "would have trouble sorting email responses to a party invitation into pre-existing folders to keep track of who can and cannot attend," the report said.

"The person at the lowest skill level earns 40 percent less than the person at the highest skill level when you hold other characteristic constant," said Rosen. "Technology skills separate the crowd."

"I can't even imagine what technology savvy will be in five years," Rosen said.

About 80 percent of middle-skilled jobs required technology skills, and this number is expected to grow.

This relatively low skill level may be surprising, given data from the National Center for Education Statistics showing that enrollment in post-secondary education increased by 15 percent between 1992 and 2002. That number further increased by 24 percent to 20.6 million between 2002 and 2012.

The PIAAC ranks the U.S. as No. 29 with the Top 5 spots, respectively, being taken by Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. OECD countries such as France, Germany, the U.K. and Finland have ranked higher than the U.S., as well.

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