It’s National Coding Week and if we had forgotten it, we’ve been roundly reminded. Press releases fly about the Computer Business Review Offices from eager PR agencies, phones ring and sweet nothings are whispered in Ruby and Rust, Rlab and Ratfviv (no, not really). The “save us all from the coding skills chasm” brigade is out in force and, to be fair, various studies indeed suggest the UK has more than a little work to do.
Sarah Kaiser, Fujitsu’s Diversity & Inclusion Lead, is among those reiterating the point that getting more women into the world of coding would be a great start to solving any skills shortage. In an emailed statement, she said: “National Coding Week is a great way to raise awareness, but we as a country, whether it’s policymakers or private organisations, must make consistent efforts to create the talent pool of the future.”
“The problem often starts early on, with, for example, a shortage of girls enrolling in STEM subjects at A Level despite achieving top grades in science and math at GCSE.”
She added: “Developing technical skills, whether that’s studying computer science or learning new coding languages, can open the door to all kinds of careers. Yet too often there’s a flawed perception that some groups, such as women, don’t belong in STEM professions. This has contributed to the enduring shortage of technically skilled people who can embrace new technology and figure out where it can help solve the most difficult problems in business, the economy, and society as a whole.
But is a focus on coding earlier really the answer? Not everyone thinks so.
Low-Code – No-Code = Low No National Coding Week Need?
Dave Wells, Managing Director of $800 million tech firm Pegasystems, believes that placing an emphasis on teaching coding may be misguided, amid a shift to the use of no-code/low-code development tools which will make the skill redundant.
Wells suggests that what organisations desperately want from young people is creativity, logic and problem-solving skills that most coding camps and programmes can’t teach. In a statement shared with Computer Business Review, he said: “It currently takes between 6 and 12 months for a developer team to build a traditional application. With digital transformation going on around us at a staggering pace, this is too slow. Low-code software can reduce that time to about two or three months.
“Of course, coding is important, but it’s not central to how businesses actually use information technology. We’ll always need students to have an understanding of how to work with code and program platforms. But computing education must also focus on logic, problem solving and on understanding how business processes work – not just on learning how to write lines of code. What should lie at the heart of how computing is taught is problem solving that stretches the imagination.”
Is Coding Going to Be a Redundant Skill in Future?
Hitachi Vantara’s VP for Solution Engineering, Wael Elrifai, who’s been coding since he was five-years-old, told Computer Business Review: “Low-code development platforms, flow-based-programming and fourth-generation programming languages have obviated the need for “serious” (and I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek!) software development in the simplest scenarios; removing the drudgery of replicating boiler-plate code, managing connectivity, data movement, encryption, storage, memory-handling, and various other mundane coding tasks.”
“I would protest that short of the “Singularity,“ it’s unlikely that programmers with deep technical knowledge and industry expertise can be replaced. There are simply some things that are too complicated to do with visual tools (even structures like loops and recursion get “ugly”). Furthermore, the limits of the knowable (e.g. the so-called “Halting Problem”) create areas where an “art” of programming employed by a skilled expert can dramatically improve software performance.”
“I’d over-simplify it this way: If by ‘making coding redundant,’ it is meant that the things we code today might be automated/simplified tomorrow, I’d confidently agree. However, as the complex becomes simple the efforts of programming-virtuosos will be channelled towards the previously unachievable, the challenges of tomorrow.”
So there you have it: National Coding Week looks set to have role to play for a while yet. What is your enterprise doing to upskill staff/secure coding talent? We would love to hear.