Everyone is learning how to code these days. Sites such as Code.org, Codecademy and Decoded are trying to make sure of this. Meanwhile Camden primary schools are the first in the country to offer coding clubs for pupils, and the latest reworking of the national school computing curriculum also holds coding at its heart. Females, who are less likely to enter the world of IT, are being encouraged to take up the art with initiatives such as Code First: Girls and Girl Develop It.
But is there a need for all this emphasis on coding, and could it possibly endanger the jobs of programmers and software developers? There is growing disagreement in the IT world on whether these coding courses are aiding or hindering software design, management and development.
The rationale behind the government and numerous educational bodies encouraging people – especially children in schools – to program is that this will lead to more people studying computer science at university and thus to more computer scientists feeding into the workforce. Increasing the UK's number of computer scientists is of great importance to the government because research from bodies such as e-skills UK and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) show that demand for IT professionals is now greatly outstripping supply.
However, Open University lecturer Peter Twining (left) points out that the rush to teach more school pupils coding skills could backfire. "Most teachers are not competent to teach programming, and even if well taught the languages that pupils learn now will be obsolete by the time they leave school," he says.
Meanwhile, Coders Lexicon founder and veteran programmer Martynr2 argued in a recent article that the huge uptake in coding courses by people of all ages could endanger the software industry by putting professional programmers out of work and driving down their pay.
"While I understand the need for more people to get interested in computer science and to fill our ranks with people who can meet the skills of the 21st century, going out there and telling everyone that coding is as easy as putting a bit of syntax down into an IDE [integrated development environment] and hitting compile is not the way," he argues. "We need passionate people who are creative and want to learn to design software in addition to coding."
Front end developer at Dachis Group, Lewis Nixon, tells V3 he believes a number of market changes have pushed professional developers and programmers out of their comfort zone.
"I would disagree that there is more competition for coders now. But as there is so much free or cheap learning tools out there I think competition will gradually increase. Not only this but sites like Macaw, Divshot and Squarespace mean that good quality code can be produced by these apps with little or no coding experience at all," said Nixon.
"I think this will invariably mean that the comfort zone that developers have existed in for a while – as people that understand the dark arts of programming – will gradually be debunked as more and more people start having a go and demystifying the process of creating websites and apps."
However on the positive side, Lewis believes employers will recognise that professional developers will hold a whole host of skills that are unattainable from short coding courses.
"I doubt very much that you would walk into a decent job off the back of a Codecademy course. You might be able to put a portfolio together and pick up freelance work, but there is still an enormous amount of experience needed to work effectively with the code frameworks in existence today," suggested Lewis. "Added to this most experienced developers often peddle the idea of beautiful code, which is fast, economical and takes experience to create."
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