Unless you have been under a rock the last few weeks, you have likely heard of the Hour of Code (HOC). The idea behind HOC is to break the perception that writing code is difficult. This is an educational outreach program for young people to learn about the benefits of being technology literate. The last time I looked, over 82 million people have written over 4 billion lines of code. Why should we care? As technology continues to advance, information about how to use it is becoming more widespread (and in many cases, free). All of this is changing how we educate students and grow our workforce.
How we educate is changing with technology. When I went through my primary education (k-12), calculators were becoming popular and typing (on typewriters – see ancient history for a reminder of what they were) was the elective class people took that had aspirations of becoming something. When my daughter and son went through their primary education, typing was mandatory and basic productivity apps on computers was the elective. Flash forward to present day. My grandchildren know how to use tablet devices before entering school. By the end of their 6th year of education, they will be very efficient with productivity applications and creating documents & multi-media presentations. By the time they finish their 8th year of education, they will be familiar with the language of programming (object/action or action/object depending on what and how you are programming). I believe by the time they complete their 12th year of education, they will be somewhat proficient at coding in some particular area, which is at or above the average skill level of a computer science college graduate. Additionally, the Hour of Coding initiative and the free education solutions available that cover coding (as well as most any other topic area) are making the university experience a luxury more than a requirement for entry into the workforce.
This should change the way corporations look for and hire young entrants into the workforce. In many cases, businesses separate jobs into blue collar and white collar, with the white collar positions requiring a four year undergraduate degree and management positions requiring an advanced degree. Coding jobs should shift from requiring/expecting undergraduate degrees to requiring/expecting badges or certificates for entry level coding jobs.
Parents: I hope your children are introduced to coding early. With your guidance they will be better prepared to enter the workforce. Without, you may be subjecting them to a life of limited opportunity. Help them choose an area of focus to become proficient in somewhere between their 8th and 12th year of education.
Hiring managers: I hope next time you write a job description for a coding or technology position you consider whether a 4-year degree is necessary. By seeking skills supported by badging programs that are targeted closer to your needs you will find people that can perform the tasks you are hiring them for. Without, you will continue screening applicants that are good people with good skills, just not the people that have the skills you need. I urge you to educate your human resources (HR) team on what badging programs are relevant for the positions you need to hire for.