Computer programming has come a long way since the days of the Commodore 64. What once was reserved for hoodie-clad geeks has grown into something more mature and more integral to our society: stable employment.
For example, Shannon Lance, a single mother of four who had to scramble to financially support her children after a marital separation. By her own admission, she had no computer skills and even needed to use her phone to research how to right-click on a Mac. But after learning to code, she landed a six-figure salary with a local software company.
Or take Ausar McGruder, who left his actor/model/stuntman career behind to gain coding skills and became a systems analyst and software developer. There are no shortage of these success stories.
Just like factory workers powered the first three industrial revolutions, developers will power the fourth. We will soon find ourselves in a society where coders are more common than construction workers. Here are 3 reasons coding is the future of the blue-collar worker:
No degree? No problem
As the public’s faith in higher education wanes, coding training programs will fill the vacuum. The rapid pace of technological change, paired with the rising cost of a four-year degree has made traditional education a less palatable and less effective option — especially for career changers. In fact, according to a 2018 report by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, only 33% of executives and 39% of hiring managers think that recent graduates are well prepared to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
“Did you get laid off as a truck driver? Go spend four years of your life and $50K+…and then you can maybe get a new job!” It’s a hard pitch.
The future of work won’t be based on degrees, it will be based on skills. Just as trade programs filled the ranks of qualified welders, electricians, carpenters, and technicians, developers don’t need a four-year degree to make an impact. Some states are already creating developer-focused registered apprenticeship programs to fill openings in their tech sector.
Supply < Demand
According to Code.org, 63,744 Computer Science students graduated into the workforce in 2018. But those graduates can only fill around 12% of the more than 505,000 open developer positions across the U.S. This demand shows no sign of slowing, with some estimates projecting the total number of open dev positions will surpass 1,000,000 by 2020. Talk about job options.
And all these openings aren’t for Silicon Valley unicorns. These are stable jobs all over the country and in practically every industry: hospitality, finance, retail, healthcare, government and defense…you get the picture.
The variety of industries with open developer positions is key because it will allow at least some career transitioners to stay within their industry. That same laid off truck driver could get a developer job in the trucking industry, whether it’s QA for fleet algorithms, building UI for self-driving trucking platforms, or a slew of other techie applications.
Working alongside our future robot overlords
Speaking of self-driving trucking platforms, automation is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Companies will either embrace automation or get left in the dust by their competitors. While automation will displace or completely replace large amounts of workers, it will also create an even higher demand for high-skill jobs, almost all of which will require some level of coding knowledge.
Many jobs are already being automated, but machines will never be able to replace certain jobs. Humans will continue to be the organizing and driving force behind technology. It takes human intelligence to coordinate technological resources and direct those resources to solve business problems. Machines will just be carrying out instructions and it will be greatly beneficial to learn how to design and deliver these instructions.
The concern that automation will replace jobs faster than it can create new ones is justified. But, I’d argue that we can’t begin to imagine some of the jobs and industries that automation will create. Trying to predict this would be similar to explaining SEO, social media management, or cloud computing to someone in the 90s. The World Economic Forum estimates that sixty-five percent of children who entered elementary school in 2016 will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet. The job opportunities of the future are unfathomable, but again, it’s highly likely that those jobs will require coding skills.
While our society and everyday lives are radically changed by technology, our workforce will need to adapt or it will wither on the vine. If we don’t focus on upskilling and retraining our low-skill workers so they can participate in the digital economy, the societal growing pains will become unbearable.
Why will coding be the future of blue-collar work? Because we need it to be.