I was a bit surprised when Mayor Bloomberg expressed his desire to learn to code at the beginning of last year. Since then, a coding movement has definitely exploded across the country! This movement got even more publicity this week when Code.org, a nonprofit aimed at growing computer programming education, released a video featuring an all-star lineup—from tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates to basketballers like Chris Bosh. The purpose of this video is to create awareness about teaching coding, particularly in the classroom. It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet, and it offers a lot of perspective around the fact that coding isn’t just about telling a computer what to do but it “helps you learn how to think” as Steve Jobs once said. As I recently told Little Pink Book in an email interview “Learning to code is an effective means to many different ends: careers, deeper understanding of one’s world, clearer, more logical thinking, creative expression; coding is not an end in and of itself.”
There is a clear need to start bringing coding to a larger (and younger) audience. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that software development jobs will total 1.2 million by 2020, up 30 percent from 2010. This is a much faster growth rate than all other industries. While the need for programming skills is exploding, the number of people who actually possess those skills is not. You’d have to be hiding under a rock to have missed the multitude of recent articles about the shortage of US-based tech workers. Clearly, there is a supply and demand gap. With the effort to increase coding education, we can move toward resolving this issue by bringing software development skills to a wider range of people. Some groups are especially focused on ensuring more women are included in this range.
One group working toward this change is Girls Who Code. According to Girls Who Code, only 14 percent of engineers are female and even though women represent 57 percent of college graduates, only 14 percent of those have computer science and engineering degrees. That’s not to say you have to have a specific degree or formal training to learn how to code. That’s the beauty of these organizations, though, they make it easy for those with no computer engineering background to learn a new skill and even possibly move into a new field. That’s the beauty in Squad as well. By making it so easy to program in pairs or to get feedback from fellow coders if you’re working solo, coding becomes more collaborative, and in turn, more fun and easier to understand. You should check it out for yourself and let us know if you agree.