The Youngest Coders are Getting Older
The computing industry is continually growing. With it are concerns that there are not enough skilled IT professionals coming through. Both government and industry are working hard to ensure a skills gap doesn’t widen into a chasm.
They’ve allocated £40 million to establish an “Institute of Coding” this year, for example. The National Cyber Security Centre meanwhile is running increasingly popular CyberFirst courses for 11-17-year-olds; summer 2018 dates are now available.
Yet perhaps surprisingly, a 2018 report published by the developer skills assessment firm, HackerRank reveals that the UK has the highest share of young coders around the world. (The survey reached 39,441 respondents across 17 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands and more.)
“The UK stands out with the highest share of developers who started coding as young as 5 to 10 years old. The majority of those developers are in their 30s and 40s today”, the report highlights. But they didn’t learn to do so at school…
Lessons from the Past?
For a country that only introduced computing and coding into the curriculum four years ago (it took over from ICT, which included how to use spreadsheets and so on) this is an impressive feat. So, how did it happen?
In large part, the report emphasises, because developers between the ages of 45 and 54 were among the first to get their hands on relatively powerful PCs, like the Acorn Archimedes, TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Apple II.
“With limited to no access to formal education, young people in the PC Revolution had an unusually strong drive to learn to code on their own”.
Partnerships between academia and the private sector were at the heart of this trend, according to HackerRank’s report: “Thanks to a partnership with Tesco in which schools received these PCs in exchange for shopping at Tesco, more kids had access to computers. This initiative spread across Europe and Australia”.
A Rich Heritage of Computing
From the ubiquity of the internet spawned by the work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to the mathematical merit of Turing and Lovelace, the UK has a rich heritage of computing to continue this trend of young coders.
It’s clear that investing in and inspiring future computer scientists from such an early age is at the forefront of keeping this rich heritage alive as the world becomes increasingly digitalised. But central to that may be letting kids tinker – and get their hands on exciting kit. Parents, supermarkets and tech giants, take note.