As a company that works with kids, we think a lot about the future. We imagine what trends will impact our current students, we think about what kind of jobs they might have, and we think about how we can play a role in helping prepare them for success given those inputs. One of the popular schools of thought as it relates to the necessity for teaching computer coding and engineering skills is the jobs gap. It is estimated that by the year 2020, there will be 1M more jobs in the technology sector than there are graduates to fill them. The logical conclusion of the jobs gap is that we should get more kids involved in technology now so that in this future state of the world, these great jobs will be filled. While we believe that preparation for future opportunities is important, I think the jobs gap argument oversimplifies the rationale for preparation in technology-based areas. More importantly, it is essential that kids learn to solve difficult problems. For those who have learned to code, there is no better training ground for overcoming obstacles on the path to greatness than developing computer programming skills.
When I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to work in the automotive industry. By the age of 22, I had completed my mechanical engineering degree and was well on my way to fulfilling this dream. However, I never imagined that I would leave the industry a short 5 years later. And, I was even more surprised that less than 10 years after leaving a wide range of automotive and technology companies would be aggressively pursuing removing humans from the entire automotive driving equation. To satisfy this evolving reality of the automotive industry, it would’ve been far better for me to combine both software and hardware into my collegiate studies. The point is that, it is often hard to know exactly what a future job within a specific industry will look like.
Learning & Re-Learning
The average tenure of workers has been steadily declining throughout the years. While parents and grandparents had the expectation of lifetime employment and the corresponding security that came along with a healthy pension in retirement, modern day employees do not have that luxury. In fact, it is expected that most workers of the future will change jobs multiple times during their careers. Some while been intra-industry and some will change industries entirely. In either case, the key is to figure out how to learn and re-learn new skills quickly. At most companies today, most employees’ even new hires or expected to have some sort of competence or skill set that can be immediately applied to solving the problem at hand. For those intra-industry switches, the goal will be to quickly get up to speed on the inner workings of their new company and apply their prior learnings to their new role. Those who change industries will have to not only learn about how things are done at their new company but also learn about how to accomplish results within an entirely new industry. At the heart of both examples is the rapid pace of learning that will be required.
If we could predict the future with a reasonable level of certainty, life would probably be a lot less interesting. Instead, it makes more sense to use reasonable goalposts and trend analysis to get a handle on where things are headed. We believe that there is greater utility in preparing kids to solve difficult problems using technology as their platform. The evolution of technology and its increasing penetration suggests that there will be a role for these solution sets going forward. While we cannot predict which programming languages or even what future industries will look like in 10 years, we can say with a high level of certainty that creative problem solvers will always be in demand.