GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, David Parry-Jones, VP EMEA at Twilio, explains why more people need to engage with the coding curriculum to gain coding skills, and why creativity is important in the software engineering world.
The future of innovation is written in software, and in the driving seat of that future are developers – the engineers who will be building it. Software developers are the key to addressing all manner of critical business problems. They are problem solvers, analytical thinkers, creative, builders.
However, the number of students applying to computing and ICT GCSEs fell this year, which is indicative of a broader problem facing the digital enterprise: the talent gap. Then there’s the gender divide. Just 21.4 percent of the UK Computing GCSE cohort in 2019 were female.
This gap, as well as the diversity of the talent pool, are problems that must be addressed. But it isn’t just the education system that should be working to fix it: instead, businesses should be working alongside public bodies and education providers to find a holistic solution – whether by funding, teaching or inspiring a future generation of software engineers.
Why is it important?
When your customers come to you with a problem, it might be executives that are tasked with fixing it, but it will most likely be developers who encode the solution. Whether that’s a specifically technical issue, or a wider-reaching problem, like how your business can best engage with your customers, it is code – and its creative application – that can overcome challenges.
From helping to improve simple, everyday processes to overhauling the way in which a business communicates with its customers, there’s huge potential for the application of code, and coding skills. Code can help to build something as simple as a mechanism for automating backend functions of your business – and thereby save time spent on laborious, manual processes.
On the other hand, it might also form the building blocks of an intelligent chatbot as a human-facing customer service solution, to help route customer enquiries quicker and ultimately improve your customer satisfaction. Code creates solutions.
But without students engaging with the subject today, without diverse role models to encourage people into the sector, and without more funding and support for teachers hoping to kickstart the digital careers of the classes they are teaching, we will soon face a dearth of developers.
Why should businesses care?
Businesses are the ones most suffering from the lack of digital talent – or to put it another way, will be the beneficiaries of closing the digital skills gap. It’s in their interest to lend their expertise to inspire the next generation of engineers, as they will be the ones looking to hire the best talent when the current cohort of students enters the working world. While society as a whole needs to put greater emphasis on the value of these skills, businesses can certainly play a part in the puzzle.
The deficit isn’t just a theoretical problem, it’s also a measurable one. The Open University Business Barometer suggests that UK businesses have had to inflate salaries to attract digital talent, at a cost of £527 million over 12 months. More broadly, Accenture recently estimated that the digital skills gap could cost the UK economy £141.5 billion in growth.
What can businesses do?
At Twilio, we have a long-term goal of teaching one million people to code. To help us achieve this, for example, we recently held a coding competition for secondary school students in Hackney that saw students create apps to solve everyday problems.
By highlighting the creative power of code in practical ways like this, businesses not only help students to develop their skills but also inspire them to consider a career in the field, so they can build the solutions of tomorrow.
There’s no doubt that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to addressing what is a deep-rooted issue. But it’s only if society start to acknowledge that there’s a problem, and accept that they have a part to play in creating the solution, that we can start plugging this gap.
I, for one, can’t wait to see what the developers of the future build from here, and hope that other businesses will work alongside us to help create a future that will be a better place for us all.