“Just learn to code!” is an opt repeated phrase when someone seeks out career advice. Attracted by big salaries and long-term job potential, the default profitable degree is CS and the default skill that has become the pejorative ticket a good job is in coding. Despite the popularity of the skill and the shortage of people who do it well, telling everyone to simply learn to code is not a solution to the crisis of employment that is sweeping America.
Coding Just Isn’t For Everyone
You can see the culture of coding everywhere. It’s creeping up in schools and its creeping up in almost any online advice board. Anytime there is a discussion on American education the focus on on STEM and learning to code. Charities are buying laptops and coding classes, businesses online are constantly selling new classes to learn how to code or help professionals add coding skills to their resume. Coding is all the rage but something most people haven’t considered is that coding is not for everyone. People have all sorts of skills that the world needs. Coding is just one of them. In a rush to find stable and consistently employment, the availability of jobs in coding and programming have been held up as the best and most sure way to have a career and not have to worry about your career disappearing after several years. Despite the popularity of coding, it just isn’t for everyone. It takes a particular set of talents and education in order to be able to master it and do it well enough to land one of those high-paying jobs. The reality is that the job market has changed. Most people won’t have one career in their life anymore. That paradigm has gone. However, skills often will transfer between careers. Having a wide variety of skills and experience in areas where you are strong is what will create a positive and well-paid work life. This goes for professionals and young students. Just telling everyone to learn how to code is far from the solution.
There More to Coding Than Code
One of the reasons that coding is held up as the ideal job and the ideal skill to have is because code underlies almost the entirely of civilization. Everything we tough and interact with is connected to the internet controlled by a computer no matter how rudimentary. To some degree, coding is the new industrial jobs. In America we’ve traded building cars and goods for coding new apps, services, and products. However, learning a programming language is only part of what it takes to be a successful software developer or even in a profession that might use coding elements while not being on the development side. It also takes things like creativity, problem solving skills, a great deal of mathematics, and formal logic. Not everyone is going to excel in all those areas and often a 6 week coding class is not going to solve that problem. This is another area where “just learn to code” fails to deliver. People, especially older workers, taking this on will also need those other skills and if they don’t already have them they are very hard to learn.
It Isn’t The Right Solution
Instead of telling everyone to learn how to code, it would be far better to help people better leverage all the skills that they have and also to help businesses hire more employees. This requires systemic and culture shifts. Understandably, someone looking for a job or a career change can’t wait around for those changes. In the mean time, its helpful for people to learn how to leverage all their skills and look for jobs that employ those skills. The next great job may be in an area or a field that is unexpected but could be quite enjoyable. For the younger generation coming up, encouraging them to develop great skills that play to their strengths is vitally important. I’m sure there are some students who will be the great programmers of tomorrow but not every student is going to be suitable. We still need a host of people with other skills to keep America working. The next time someone tells you to just learn to code, remember, it may not be for you and that is ok.