Another year, another successful National Coding Week complete.
Each time I’m amazed at the response and amount of interest we generate – not just from those who are already well informed about coding, but from those who have never come across it before.
It’s fair to say that general awareness has grown significantly over the last few years; our participant numbers testify to this, as we’ve seen more people than ever getting involved and loads of fantastic events running across the country.
Over 7,000 people participated, including 3,000 school children who took the National Coding Week Stay Safe online and Digital Skills badges.
I’ve also noticed a shift in how code education is perceived. When we first started out with the initiative back in 2014, it felt as though this was really the only time of year where organisations came together to reach out to the public with their coding-based teaching programmes.
People were also willing to give coding a go when prompted, but there wasn’t quite the same level of enthusiasm in the general public as we see now.
This rise in popularity may, in part, be due to the increasingly tech-focused job market. Employers are constantly on the lookout for tech-savvy workers with a good digital skillset to meet their IT demands.
Graduates and working professionals alike recognise the need to develop their proficiencies to stay completely up-to-date with the changing economy and give themselves a leg-up on other candidates when applying for a vacancy.
As a result, events which focus on improving computer-based skills, such as coding boot camps, are no longer one-offs, but are instead taking place year-round in order to meet high learner demand.
It’s slowly being acknowledged that developing even a basic knowledge of code simplifies most digital tasks – whatever industry it is that you are involved in.
We’re moving in the right direction, as coding is gradually spreading its reach to a wider audience. However, I can’t help but feel that we’re some way off where we need to be.
There is still a clear skills gap when it comes to digital literacy; graduate coders remain in short supply, whilst many businesses are lacking digitally experienced workers. Addressing this current deficiency has to be a priority.
The UK Government has already worked hard to introduce initiatives promoting computer coding in schools, with youngsters being encouraged to understand how programming works from an early age. For this, Government should be applauded.
Unfortunately, adults who were never able to benefit from such digital education have been excluded, left feeling ‘stranded’ in the middle, unsure of how to get involved but still eager to learn. This is where the idea for National Coding Week came from, but we’re not there yet.
In a recent poll posted via our Twitter page, we posed a question to our followers to gauge how they had acquired their digital skills. Unsurprisingly, the majority of responders categorised themselves as self-taught – a result which I’d put down to the fact that picking up the basics can be done in your spare time by following a YouTube video or online guide (as I have done myself!)
But we can’t rely on self-learners to plug the gap. Aside from personal learning, I do wonder whether more can be done to provide formal training to adults already employed by organisations in other roles, or those who are still looking for employment.
Many businesses now expect their new employees to be up to speed with the latest technology, so surely they should be offering learning opportunities for existing staff members too.
Promoting coding courses as a means of self-development will likely draw in interest from those worried about their job prospects being hampered by a lack of digital skills.
As Stephen Hawking was once quoted as saying, “Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.”
I couldn’t agree more. A little coding can go a long way.