Friday, 21 June 2013

Part 2: Learning to Program: An Easy Way to Get a Job?

Due to the current developer shortage, teaching children to program could be a way for young people to secure themselves a job in a difficult economic climate.  While normally brand new developers would be less desirable than experienced ones, the shortage means that there aren’t enough programmers to fit the number of programming jobs available and to put it bluntly, beggars can’t be choosers.

Image courtesy of Paul Inkles on Flickr.
The number of coding jobs is also expected to increase in the future.  There were 913,000 computer programmer jobs in 2010.  That number is expected to jump 30% from 2010 to 2020 whereas the average growth of other U.S. jobs is predicted to be 14% (predictions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  They are well-paid jobs too.  In 2012, according to the BLS, the average salary for a computer programmer was about $80,000, compared to the average wage of American workers at $45,800.  For more job statistics see Code.org’s stats page.

Mark Lassoff, founder of Learntoprogram.tv says,“There aren’t enough people to fill these jobs because technology and the job market are moving much faster than education in high schools and colleges.”  Many computing curricula are outdated, teaching children skills they can easily pick up themselves, such as how to use Microsoft’s PowerPoint.  In most cases, computing courses are optional and are usually an afterthought.  They are more likely to be lumped in with subjects like home economics and textiles than maths and English.  In the U.S., only nine states have made computer science courses a graduation requirement.

In the UK, chair of the hi-tech industry campaign Next Gen Skills, Ian Livingstone OBE said: “High-tech, knowledge-based industries are major generators of jobs and growth for London, and need skilled computer programmers to maintain their growth. At the moment London’s schools just aren’t producing enough students with the right knowledge and skills that industry needs.  Creative industries, for example, are crying out for graduates who know how to programme and are forced to recruit from abroad.”
 
According to Mozilla's YouGov Survey, three quarters of young people in the UK want to learn how to make games, apps and websites but only 3% of children have the programming skills required to achieve this.  This skill deficit is, to some extent, because traditionally the computing curriculum concentrated on word processing and spreadsheet packages and not on more creative and advanced skills like programming.  However, the UK is in the process of creating a new computing curriculum to try and combat this.

Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.
Schools that do offer computer science usually restrict the course to students who excel at maths and teach only Java.  “What the computer science community has been slow to grasp is that there are a lot of different people who are going to need to learn computer science, and they are going to learn it in a lot of different ways,” says Mark Guzdial, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  And of course, along with a shortage of programmers in general, there is a shortage of programming teachers as anyone who can programme is likely to get a better pay elsewhere.  However, as I will discuss in the next part of this series, teaching programming can be easier than expected.

Some companies are taking matters into their own hands.  For example, Living Social (a daily deal site) could not find the programmers it needed.  It ran an experiment (Hungry Academy) to train 24 people to program in just 5 months.  The students all graduated and became full-time developers for the company.

So, to conclude, learning to program at any age could be an advantage in the difficult climate that we find ourselves in.  However, it seems about time that curricula started to change to fit into the 21st century world (of work and in general).  It is also something that is appealing and even 'fun' for many young people that could help them advance their careers from a young age, what have they got to lose?  In Part 3 of the series, I will discuss some of the skills that learning to program can help generate.

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4 comments:

  1. This is really an superb idea, i am also using an similar virtual learning program from txedsol called RTI Software which helps in improving reading skills of children after using this software my child reading skills are showing good improvement...Thanks Great Info

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  2. You're very welcome! Thanks for your comment too.

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