Last year saw the revamp of the UK school curriculum to, for the first time, include computer programming or “coding”. The logic behind this was sound, by starting early the next generation of young minds will have this discipline engrained in their psyche and tomorrow’s workforce will benefit.
In actual fact, the new ICT curriculum will set out to teach kids more than just coding. The three main aims are to get school students to:
- understand what algorithms are, how they are implemented as programs on digital devices, and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions
- create and debug simple programs
- use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs
The call for children to learn these skills is partly down to the growing demand from our industries. All of the technologies we use today are built using the three elements highlighted in the above aims. But it’s not just programming jobs which require people to learn code, more and more roles are requiring staff to have some knowledge of coding.
Take me for example. I work as a Marketing Executive and before I started my role at Filtered had no knowledge of code. Since joining over a year ago I’ve picked up a lot coding language due to my exposure to web design tool Adobe Dreamweaver, which is the programme I use to create our marketing emails. I’ve also picked up bits of coding when creating web pages on our content management system Hubspot.
Coding in Adobe Dreamweaver
This shift, in which job roles are starting to include a broader range of specialist skills has been referred to as the growth of the knowledge worker. This is a term originally coined by Peter Drucker (1957) when he suggested that “the most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity."
Davenport (2005) commented that the rise of the “knowledge worker” had been foreseen from as early as 1958 and that this role made up almost a third of the workforce in the US. Tapscott (2006) also saw a link between knowledge workers and innovation, but the pace and manner of interaction have become more advanced as time has gone on. In an age where digital innovation is at the forefront, is it really surprising to see job roles cover a much broader reach of specialist skills?
Thankfully the House of Lords have taken heed and in their Select Commitee on Digital Skills report earlier this year stated that digital skills should be taught as a third core subject, and treated with same importance as numeracy and literacy.
But where has this sudden need for digital skills surfaced from? Well, according to a study from telecomms giants O2 (2013), Britain needs 750,000 digitally skilled workers by 2017 if it is to capitalise on a £12bn economic opportunity. Essentially the growth of jobs that require digital skills has dwarfed the amount of workers with the capability to do them. So this drive in digital proficiency is a reaction to bridge this skills gap.
Knowledge worker writing code
A report published earlier this year by Accenture (2015) supports this need. The report, titled Being Digital, states that 78 percent of business leaders expect their organizations to be a digital business in the next three years. And if they are to realize the benefits they anticipate from being digital, the readiness of their workforce must become a priority.
44% of the business leaders they surveyed say the biggest barrier to being digital is not having the required skills and capabilities. They should however be positive, as this move to digital upskilling is on the whole being well received by staff, who see this as an opportunity to improve their work experiences and job prospects.
They are, in fact, proactively seeking out the skills they need to suit the demands of a digital business with 81 percent acknowledging that digital technologies will transform the way they work in the next three years.
In addition to the expected cost efficiencies, a majority cite benefits from productivity, innovation, agility and quality of work. Business leaders are also positive about the potential impact on employee engagement and workplace safety.
So with business leaders clearly in support of this move to a digital savvy workforce, the future looks bright for UK staff. Only time will tell if this is adopted universally, but with so many benefits and clear support by many firms and their leaders to get in line with these changes, the digital upskilling seems to be just over the horizon. With coding also being taught in schools we’re ensuring that this range of skills are embedded in future generations and this can only be a good thing as far as the Uk’s digital economy is concerned.
- Drucker, P. F. (1959). The Landmarks of Tomorrow New York: Harper and Row.
- Davenport, Thomas H. (2005). Thinking For A Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results From Knowledge Workers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. ISBN 1-59139-423-6.
- Tapscott, Don; Williams, Anthony D. (2006). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York: Penguin.ISBN 1-59184-138-0.
- O2 and Development Economics. (2013). The Future Digital Skills Needs of the UK Economy
- Laurenceau, Celine; Sloman, Colin. (2015). Being digital - Embrace the future of work and your people will embrace it with you. Accenture