An interesting article recently published laments a “lost generation” of computer programmers in the UK. A former top education official , Sir David Bell, says that their education system had gotten computing in schools “completely wrong” and that he sees fewer undergraduates with the enthusiasm for programming than those growing up in the 1980’s and early 1990’s with the first generation of home computers.
“Dull lessons and poor teaching has turned hundreds of thousands of students off computer science.” – Sir David Bell
Among the challenges listed to address the perceived shortage of skilled tech workers caused by this are 1) the need to create a more engaging computer science curriculum to teach programming in an interactive and interesting context, 2) a shortage of teaching staff with the necessary knowledge and practical expertise, and 3) the availability of suitable programming tools and other resources.
Much of what we see in the U.K. article mirrors recent data in the US. Statistics from Code.org show that that computer-programming jobs are growing at 2x the national average and we don’t have the graduates to fill the need. Also, computer science is among the highest paid entry-level jobs so there is both opportunity and reward for students who know programming.
In addition to the U.K solutions we at Start Code believe a missing piece from the U.K. strategy is a focus on the social atmosphere that comes with getting kids together in one room. A lot of people think that creating more online courses and lesson sites will solve the problem but we think that working and playing together with peers in a casual, low-pressure environment builds the students’ enthusiasm and build self-esteem. We see our kids genuinely excited to come to our programming labs each week and they hate to close their laptops at the end of the session. We think that this experience will make them more excited to further pursue programming and technology-related fields in higher education and their future careers.