Programming, coding, software development…it all sounds a bit high-tech if you’re not an expert. However, programming is a digital skill that could enhance, advance, and future-proof your career, and it’s actually something you can teach yourself relatively easily online in your free time.
What is programming and software development?
What’s the difference between “Coding” and “Programming”?
“Coding” is the translation of natural language into machine commands and coders use an intermediary language to direct the step-by-step action the machine needs to take. Coding is a subset of the broader skill of “Programming”, which involves creating and developing an executable machine program, debugging and testing, and reviewing and analysing data, among other skills.
Why is there a programming and software development skills gap?
A skills gap basically refers to there being a greater demand for skill than there is a supply of that skill, and the digital skills gap remains shockingly vast in the UK.
There are some key factors which are causing and exacerbating the digital skills gap, especially in skills like programming:
1. Gender inequality
Gender inequality has always been and still is a striking issue in the UK, with women long being underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) industries. Across all industries (both tech and non-tech), the UK Office for National Statistics reported a 17.3% gender pay gap in 2019, with this figure unfortunately likely to be an underestimate, excluding particular sectors and job roles. According to Inclusive Tech Alliance, nearly two-thirds of boards of the top tech firms have no female directors and more than two-thirds of executive teams in the top tech firms have no female representation. Of course, feeling as though they have little hope of getting the top jobs in the industry, women often feel discouraged from a young age to pursue roles involving digital skills like programming, which only contributes to the overall skills gap
2. Lack of diversity
The lack of diversity in roles requiring programming and software development skills is more nuanced than just the gender gap. It’s an issue when it comes to ethnicity, with nearly three quarters of tech boards having no black and minority ethnic members (BAME) at all. It’s also an issue when it comes to socio-economic background, with more than one third of tech board members having attended private schools, compared to just 7% of the UK population, as well as 35% of tech board members attending Oxford or Cambridge, compared to just 1% of the UK population.
3. Lacking focus in education
With the tech industry in the UK being one of the most pioneering in the world, you would expect that careers in programming and software development, among other tech sectors, would be being encouraged. However, there is a desperate lack of education around how to acquire these skills, the opportunities in the industry, as well as the presence of role models for students from a diverse range of backgrounds. A report by PwC, for example, found that 78% of students couldn’t name one famous female working in tech. Students who identify as women, BAME, or from a low socio-economic background are also far more likely to face barriers and stigmas when pursuing STEM subjects and skills.
How can we tackle the digital skills gap?
Organisations have been set up by those in the tech industry looking to research and encourage greater diversity and inclusivity. Some of these include Inclusive Tech Alliance, Code First Girls, and blackgirl.tech.
To tackle gender inequality and improve diversity within the tech industry companies, organisations at all levels of the sector need to spend the time and money required to build inclusive environments. Companies could also launch apprenticeship programs and graduate schemes which encourage students from underrepresented and untraditional backgrounds to start their careers in sectors like programming and software development.
The UK government is introducing schemes to try and bridge the digital skills gap, such as the Tech Partnership, however more needs to be done to tackle the wider societal issues which are contributing to the skills gap. This includes ensuring acceptable diversity quotas are met, working towards closing the gender pay gap, and overhauling the education system to encourage BAME students, girls, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to pursue STEM subjects and careers.
Although on an individual level there is little we can do to combat the societal and systemic barriers and skills gaps in the industry, we can take it upon ourselves to upskill. Skills such as programming and coding can be developed online in our homes and there are upskilling events and resources that can help you to identify skills gaps and develop these skills.
How could programming be beneficial for your career?
You may now be thinking: “Well, programming sounds like an important, interesting, and learnable skill, but I don’t think it’s really relevant or useful in my industry or for my future career.” Well, fortunately, skills like coding, programming, and software development are ones that are always in high demand across a huge range of industries. Acquiring these skills can do so much more for your professional and personal development than just landing you a job as a software developer.
Here are five ways that learning programming as a new skill could be beneficial for your career:
1. Help you find jobs related to the field
Software development and programming skills make up 58% of digital demand, however 68% of postings requiring these skills were found in non-IT roles. Having coding and programming skills can therefore make you stand out from other candidates when applying for roles such as content creation, marketing, PR, and more.
2. Prove your digital fluency
Knowledge of coding and programming can help you learn other aspects of tech more easily and quickly, which will allow you to stay on top of the rapidly evolving industry. Being digitally fluent will give you greater job security.
3. Demonstrate transferable skills
One in five software engineers are entirely self-taught, meaning skills such as coding and programming can demonstrate softer skills, such as your ability to be a self starter, a hard worker, and a problem solver. These skills also prove to employers that you are able to think logically and apply yourself to new skills that you may not have encountered before.
4. It could allow you to go freelance
We all know the benefits of becoming a freelancer, whether that’s being able to choose your own flexible hours, control how much you get paid for your work, or just being your own boss! Coding is a sought after skill which many companies are willing to outsource (and pay good money for), so if you’re looking for a way into the freelance industry, this may be a reliable and cost-effective route to consider.
5. Become a software developer!
Ok, we know we said that learning programming skills will lead to so much more than becoming a software developer, but we have some facts which may convince you to look into software development after all:
The average salary for a software developer is way above the average UK salary at £54,900
One in five software engineers are self-taught, with less than half actually having a Computer Science degree, so you don’t have to go back to school
The skill cluster has stable projected growth, meaning a career in software development ensures relative job security – reassuring news as we enter into an evermore uncertain job market.
The programming and software development skill cluster is one of the most in-demand digital skill sets in the modern job market. Acquiring these skills could not only open new doors, but also improve your job security and allow you greater control over your professional and personal life.
To learn more about programming and software development, along with our other top 5 digital skills for the future, check out the incredible sessions at Digital Growth. This pioneering 2-day event, powered by Digital Women, is designed to provide everyone with the opportunity to access the resources they need to upskill, grow, and thrive digitally. Make sure you secure your ticket today!