To mark International Youth Day on 12 August, ITU News looks at how learning to code can help boost youth employment and close the ICT skills gap.
The technology industry is facing a problem: there is a shortage of software development professionals with the coding skills needed to fill the information and communication technology (ICT) workforce. As ICTs continue to evolve at a rapid pace, talent shortages have been reported in critical areas such as cybersecurity, engineering, and general IT staff. This trend is expected to continue, with Europe facing a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020 – and Chief Information Officers around the world are worried.
But with 71 million young people unemployed worldwide, there is huge potential for young people to pursue careers as junior developers in the growing technology industry filling the necessary gaps to help advance ICT development and the global economy.
Coding bootcamps and youth unemployment
Code is a text-based ‘language’ that tells technology how to work. Everything from computer software to microwaves use code to operate: the step-by-step commands tell it what you want it to do. Coding is key to enabling our digital world – and skilled coders are in high demand around the world.
Coding bootcamps offer an accelerated path for young people to develop the coding skills that are in high demand today. Typically 3- to 6-month intensive in-person training programmes, they are largely aimed at people with little or no previous experience in coding. Students learn programming foundations followed by hands-on project-based exercises that aim to simulate the every-day work environment. Students learn how to code in a specific programming language and how products are developed in the real world – from problem identification to crafting and sharing ideas.
Following the successful completion of a coding bootcamp, salaries are boosted by 38% on average, according to one study released last year – and there is strong evidence that they can help address gender equality in ICT. For example, a 22-year-old English major in the United States named Savannah Worth signed up for a 24-week web programming class with the Galvanize school and was hired by IBM as a software developer in San Francisco earning a six-figure salary after successfully completing the class.
Recognizing their transformative potential, United States President Obama launched a pilot programme to provide government grants and loans to bootcamp students from low-income backgrounds in October 2015. Other governments are also encouraging youth participation through coding initiatives such as European Union Code Week which was launched in 2013 and aims to bring coding and digital literacy to everybody in engaging way.
While coding bootcamps do not offer a comprehensive ‘deep knowledge’ like a more traditional computer-science degree, with ICT jobs growing in many regions around the world, they are a good place to start.
NOTE FROM ITU: ITU-D’s ‘Coding Bootcamps: a strategy for youth employment’ report provides a comprehensive overview of how coding bootcamps can improve the earning prospects of youth worldwide.