Liam Bateman, co-founder and developer at Silverchip talks coding, apprenticeships and opportunities for young web developers across the North West.
As the second largest hub for creative and digital talent in the UK, it comes as no surprise that Manchester has grown to represent a thriving community of start-up businesses. You can’t move for Meetups, networking conferences and, more recently, offers for apprenticeships and work placements from companies keen to snap up bright young things from across the North West. For young web developers, the increase in work experience opportunities and access to a wider support network, are invaluable for gaining the skills needed to meet continually evolving demands for website build and app development.
Despite such a flourishing digital and creative sector, however, the amount of school curriculum dedicated to learning about computer programming or indeed any sort of IT, is embarrassingly low. Recruiting graduates with the right skillset within the technology industry seems to be an uphill struggle. The problem is that school IT classes have a tendency to focus purely on Word-based programmes while shying away from harder skills such as coding. And when we stop to consider that a child in a secondary school is likely to own some sort of desktop, tablet or mobile device (often all three), it simply doesn’t make sense.
Given this, it’s not surprising that many developers are self-taught; relying on online tutorials and how-to guides to turn what often begins as a hobby into a successful career. Web development can often be an isolated process which is why finding the right support is so important.
Manchester Girl Geeks, Code School and Hack Manchester are a handful of outlets in the North West that have popped up in recent months offering tutorials, live code competitions and networking opportunities respectively for all ages. For younger generations, the Manchester Creative Studio will open its doors, later next year. The first of its kind to launch in Greater Manchester, the school will welcome students aged 14-19 from September 2014. With an aim to prepare young people for a career in the creative industries, it will also help them to access work placements with local companies. Having only received the green light from the Department of Education earlier this year, schools like the Manchester Creative Studio definitely represent a step in the right direction.
Digital Day is another fantastic initiative that benefits the UK community as a whole, placing professionals from the sector with young people in schools and colleges for the day. Similarly, Apps for good has long argued for a better school curriculum, providing volunteers to help secondary school students develop their own apps.
While the bigger picture across the North West seems to indicate a thriving digital community, the opportunity for younger individuals to develop relevant skills at school, is almost non-existent. Schools such as the Manchester Creative Studio, however, which encourage new forms of learning, are extremely important if we are to buck the trend of ‘bedroom developing,’ banish the stereotype image of the ‘geeky’ developer and most importantly, to satisfy the demands of the industry.