National Coding Week: deciphering the myths

Tech experts explain why coding is an important skill to learn – no matter what your age

As we move further into the digital age, coding is becoming an increasingly vital skill – especially in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) industries. There’s now an even greater pressure for schools to ‘up their game’ and offer more tailored classes for a skill that’s gaining more prominence, not just in scientific workplaces but also in society at large.

This National Coding Week, Education Technology acknowledges the importance of encouraging more young people into widening their skillset to meet the technological and societal demands of the new digital landscape.

Breaking the stereotypes

Hannah Alexander, graduate data scientist at Mango Solutions explores the importance of redefining what it means to work in coding:

“Data science is such a rapidly developing field that it is easy to feel at the forefront of innovation. It is applicable in a vast variety of areas, so there is always something exciting developing and to contribute towards.

“Code underpins our everyday lives, from taking the train to work to flicking through Instagram. However, very few people understand how this works. By learning how to code, you get a better understanding of the modern world! Code can be applied to any workplace. Menial tasks can be automated, tasks can be undertaken more efficiently, and you can become a more valuable member of the workforce.

“By learning how to code, you get a better understanding of the modern world” – Hannah Alexander

“Unfortunately, I think there is a misconception amongst the younger generation that working with code or in STEM is dull, when in reality it’s anything but. The boring office worker stereotype should be broken by showcasing the exciting opportunities these jobs can provide, such as travel, global events and the opportunity to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Addressing the skills shortage 

The technology industry has transformed considerably over the last few years, and with it comes the emergence of a new standard of employee: modern-day technologists who must possess creativity, innovation and problem solving abilities. Sam Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam, explains:

“Access to digital skills is a crucial enabler of digital transformation, fuelling increased demand for people with the skills to manage evolving technologies such as AI and cloud. However, despite digital skills becoming ever more important in today’s economy, according to the CBI, two thirds of businesses already have unfilled digital skills vacancies and 58% say they’ll need significantly more digital skills in the next five years.

“National Coding Week serves as a great way to promote the importance of coding skills for our current and emerging business landscape. It also contributes a fun solution to help encourage young people, especially young women, pursue a career in technology. Women represent a small percentage of the technology workforce, which makes looking for skills in an all-but untapped female talent pool an obvious solution. By encouraging women and girls with the possibilities of an education and career in technology, we can help address the skills shortage by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving skills to the industry.”

Ian Rawlings, regional VP at SumTotal Systems, further explores how digital skills are constantly in demand:

“No matter what industry an organisation sits within, it will require IT professionals to provide continuous support through digital transformation. The challenge most businesses are faced with is the growing shortage of skilled IT professionals. In fact, research from Tech Nation has found that vacancies within the UK tech sector have risen by 36% during the summer, after the pandemic first hit, with the skills gap growing significantly.

“Comprehensive training and certification can help IT professionals stay ahead of the changing technology landscape, while at the same time validating their skills and knowledge. Coding is a core skill for IT professionals and one that can help any practitioner feel much more confident in their role. To remain competitive, every organisation should prioritise building and developing these skills in their current IT workforce, as well as searching for them in an increasingly scarce talent pool.

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“Coding is a core skill for IT professionals and one that can help any practitioner feel much more confident in their role” – Ian Rawlings

“Building the right foundational digital skills within the organisation can avoid the time, costs and headaches of handling IT issues when they arise. Looking inward at IT skills development is also critical for ongoing business continuity. For most organisations, the need for this is clearer than ever.”

Diversifying the workforce

Isabel Hutchings, applications engineer at Content Guru, shares her own personal experience of working in technology and how this is likely the same story for other young women looking to start a career in coding:

“Being an engineering graduate and now working as an applications engineer, I know first-hand how hard it can be for girls to make the decision to pursue a career in things like coding and engineering. The education system as a whole needs to do more to build not only awareness and knowledge about what coding can be as a career – but passion in the subjects more generally. Young girls are at a particularly impressionable age at school, with relatively fluid perceptions of what they want to do in the future, so it’s important to capture students’ imaginations. Unfortunately, we’re not yet getting this right. Until we expand the perception of coding in young people – particularly girls – and unlock the hidden passion in students to pursue the many opportunities this area offers, we can expect to see the same stark statistics year after year.”

Svenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb Global agrees that there must be a greater recognition for diversity in coding:

“Coding is and will remain a skill for everyone to learn, it’s not just for the male part of our population. In fact, Ada Lovelace is still remembered today as the world’s first computer programmer. When it comes to coding and programming, technical accuracy and creativity marry well together. Coders support organisations across various industries from healthcare and manufacturing to cybersecurity. With a notable rise in cyber attacks, exacerbated by the global pandemic, the latter is absolutely vital. Those able to analyse their company’s IT infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities due to their skillset will be in high demand.

“Those able to analyse their company’s IT infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities due to their skillset will be in high demand” – Svanja de Vos

“National Coding Week is an opportunity to shine a light on how important, and how much fun, it is to learn to code and take an interest in technology as the world around us evolves. With various coding platforms and language courses available for both younger and older learners, you can start learning to code at any age. With the digital skills gap growing, it’s crucial that schools and universities support their students in learning to code to help widen future pools of developers.”

Keeping industries digital

As every industry becomes more digital, data underpins so much of the work businesses conduct. Kevin Kline, principal program manager at SentryOne, rounds things off by providing insight into how this will impact the future:

“Whether it’s a retail website collecting data from customers making a purchase, or the manufacturer producing these items that needs to keep track of resources coming in and products going out – data is behind it all. But the databases and applications that store and use this data don’t just appear out of thin air. An IT expert needs to start by coding the software for these, either tailoring it for a specific organisation, or developing a product to be sold on to customers as a third-party resource.

“Coding is behind our digital world, keeping all of our technology ticking over and enabling businesses to continue running, even throughout the depths of a pandemic. This Coding Week, it’s crucial to highlight the need for more coders to study the subject and enter the workforce, and this week is all about encouraging more people – whether students at school or adults looking for a career change – to see the importance of coding and consider it their next big step.”


You might also like: A quarter of British adults wish they had learnt coding in school


 

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