The changing perception of the ‘geek’ could be the turning point for Britain in its fight to keep pace with countries like China, Japan and Estonia – who have had coding in schools for years. Learning to code and spending time programming are no longer the activity of ‘geeks and nerds’ as digital natives are driving the demand to improve their skills and potentially bridge the UK’s massive skills gap.
Being a geek is finally cool. Look at the Victoria’s Secret model who’s also a programmer – everyone wants to be a ‘geek’ now and it is fuelling the demand that we need to fill the constantly growing tech skills gap. I work really closely with schools, colleges and universities across the country and the young people I’ve spoken to are crying out to learn how the internet works, how to create their own apps and programmes.
Kids no longer want to take their bikes apart to find out how they work, they want to take their computers to bits and find out what runs them – both physically and in terms of the coding that is running their everyday worlds.
In July 2013, education secretary Michael Gove announced that for the first time the national curriculum would include programming and coding. He said: “For the first time children will be learning to programme computers. It will raise standards across the board – and allow our children to compete in the global race.”
Manchester Digital founder Shaun Fensom believes that this is pivotal in the success of the country’s future. He said: “The penny has finally dropped that teaching kids coding is a good idea. Back in the 1980s it was fantastic, everybody was learning how to code, but that just disappeared. We wouldn’t have a games industry if it hadn’t have been for that.
“There has been a culture change in that the notion of geek is cool, coding has finally taken route and that can only be good because we have a skills crisis in terms of the supply of the technical skills, and the demand is getting bigger rather than smaller.”
Herb Kim founder of the Thinking Digital Conference believes that the pace of change within the technology industry is so rapid that we will never be able to keep up. Kim said: “Eddie O’Bark argues that the pace of change now has outstripped any human’s ability to actually keep up with it, and yes if you think about the amount of data we have to absorb, we’re failing at it clearly. I think we’re at a point where the pace of change isn’t just faster, but it’s faster than our capabilities to deal with it.”
Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist at Book of the Future, believes that there is still hope. He said: “I would still argue that it’s always been this way, just slower, but we are on the ramp. We could soon be at a point where computer power exceeds brain power!”
Making such great progress with technology education is only going to be a good thing in a world where both professionally and personally we’re becoming ever-more reliant on technology to live. Whether or not the computers of the future outstrip the brain power of engineers, we will still need people to maintain the machines and develop them further. We’re at a turning point and as a technology entrepreneur it is really exciting to see.